The Second Time Around *COMPLETED 17/12/17*

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bad geminton
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The Second Time Around *COMPLETED 17/12/17*

Postby bad geminton » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:18 am

Foreword

Hello folks. Some of you may remember, back in the depths of forum history, a little fan fiction project called Kashmir run by our very own fan fiction section moderator DukeNukem 2417. That was all the way back in 2010, a story involving separate but connected chapters featuring all 11 of the doctors existing at that time, all set on the planet of Kashmir - of which I wrote four - plus a prologue and epilogue story with all the doctors working together. A year after that, we had Kashmir 2: The Destroyer of Worlds, of which I contributed a further chapter, with Kashmir 3: The Oblivion Imperative following a few years after that, with a further 3 chapters contributed by myself. I give this history by means of an introduction to those of you who were not around on the forum at the time - and there has been so much turnaround in the last few years that that is probably most of you. Anyway, Kashmir 3 wrapped up nearly three years ago, but I was left with a desire to further explore the lives of a few of the characters I had created to populate my chapters of the Kashmir Trilogy. There were a few threads that didn't quite feel tied up. For that reason, for the past two years, I have gradually been chipping away at this story. It is longer than anything I have written before - some may say too long. It does not feature the Doctor very heavily, although he is there, and the story took so long to complete that the actor playing the Doctor I used passed away before I finished writing it. The main characters of this story are characters specifically created for the Kashmir project, which as I've said before, many of you won't have read, and the events focus on a few key events of the original trilogy. I have tried to make it as accessible as I can for those who haven't read the original Kashmir Trilogy, pretty much everything that has happened before which needs to be known is explained, but I would recommend reading at least a few entries in the Kashmir series, specifically K1's 7th, 3rd and 4th doctors' chapters, in that order, K2's 3rd and 9th Doctors' Chapters, and K3's 3rd, 9th and 4th Doctor's chapters. Between those you would probably gain any information that is relevant to this series. Incidentally, the prologue of this is the end of the epilogue to the 3rd Doctor's chapter of K3. As I've said, though, it should be follow-able without reading those, but if you are interested in the additional reading, get in touch with DukeNukem 2417, he'll be able to send any parts of the original trilogy you feel like reading.

Anyway, regardless of the backstory, this story represents a lot of work, over slightly too long a period of time - 2 years is a bit excessive for writing one story, I've just had a lot of other things going on - and I am very happy with it. Hopefully some of you will feel like giving it a read, maybe a few might even read the whole thing, and that would be lovely. I'm aware that expecting many of you to read something of this length that only features the doctor in a minimal capacity, and features no other Doctor Who characters or monsters, is probably a bit of a tall order, but if anyone does want to explore this fan fiction-spinoff then I'd be very happy to hear what you think. There are 5 chapters in total, with an Epilogue by DukeNukem 2417, I intend to post around one installment every week, which means it'll all be up by the week before Christmas. The first part will be following a few minutes after this foreword, part 2 will be coming next weekend, and so forth. One installment will be either a few days early or a few days late, because I'll be away for the weekend, but it's a loose schedule. I will also include a caution that there is some mild language and occasional violence in this. Nothing crazy bad, but just something for the more sensitive reader to take note of.

With that introduction out of the way, please enjoy my biggest writing project to date: The Second Time Around
Last edited by bad geminton on Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:35 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Do you know who I miss? That guy with the potatoes, let's bring him back...

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bad geminton
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Re: The Second Time Around

Postby bad geminton » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:19 am

Prologue

The glowing beacon lit up the horizon like the opening strains of the dawn. Sophie Bausch, her father Grahame, and their guests looked out of the living room window as it pierced the blackness of the night. The Doctor, Jo Grant, Captain Mike Yates and Kate Stewart gazed out attentively out to it, seeing in its radiance their immediate futures rushing toward them, almost as rapidly as the light itself. “Where’s that coming from?” Jo asked. “If my information is correct,” the Doctor replied, “Kestroth’s arena.” He turned to look at Sophie, who was looking wistfully at the beam, her thirst for adventure not fully satiated by the dramatic events of the day. “I don’t suppose there’s a bridle path going there, is there?” The Doctor asked. “Not all the way.” Sophie said, with a slight shake of the head, “but if you took the path to Jaheeb, it’s pretty much directly west from there. I could show you, if you like.” She gave a hopeful smile. The Doctor laughed, “I think I can find the way now,” he said, “follow the red posts, right? I’d say that you’ve been in quite enough danger today, young lady.” “I should think so.” Grahame agreed, “I think this should be a lesson about the dangers of getting involved in this sort of thing, it’s about time you cut the “amateur detective” hobby, wouldn’t you say Doctor?” It was apparent from the Doctor’s face that he would not. “On the contrary,” he said, “I think she has a potential future there, if she can get the training.” “Really?” Grahame asked, raising his eyebrows, “You think so?” “I do.” The Doctor smiled. “She’ll be 16 soon, I suggest you get her enrolled in the school leavers’ police training program, she has the potential to be one of the KPPF’s finest. I’ll put in a good word for her; I’m good friends with Commander Bryden. Or rather I will be. But from his point of view I already am.” The doctors floundering attempt to make sense of this contradictory tense was lost as the significance of what he was saying washed over Sophie, almost overwhelming her. She ran to embrace him in a hug, almost catching the towering man off balance. “This really means a lot to me, Doctor.” She said. “I know,” the Doctor smiled. “You just be the best you can be. Do that for me.” “Thank you Doctor, I will.” Sophie smiled. After a final exchange of farewells, Sophie and her father stepped back and watched as the Doctor and his friends headed on their way, disappearing quickly into the gloom of the night. Grahame Bausch looked down at his daughter, a thoughtful look in his eyes. “I think he’s right, you know.” He said, resting a hand on her shoulder, “If you really put your mind to it you could do something great.” Sophie held her gaze on the beacon of light for a moment longer, before looking up to meet her father’s gaze, her eyes as full of light as the beacon itself. “I’m really going to do everything I can,” she said quietly, “This chance… getting to fight crime, work towards making the world a safer place… it’s all I could have wanted. I’m going to make you proud.” She looked back out to the beacon, her voice lowering to a whisper, “I’m going to make both of you proud.”

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Do you know who I miss? That guy with the potatoes, let's bring him back...

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bad geminton
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Re: The Second Time Around

Postby bad geminton » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:25 am

Chapter One: All I Could Have Wanted

Kashmir: a planet that had, over the course of about four years, seen more turmoil and conflict than many planets would see in a millennium. Time had been halted, rewound and rewritten, alien armadas had laid waste to entire cities and the entire planet had been briefly pulled from reality itself. These events were firmly in the past now, and three years had passed without any remarkable incident. That is not to say that nothing happened, far from it, many might argue that everyday life, the sort that passes in the absence of extreme turmoil and conflict, is the most important type of event. For the time being though, on a cosmic scale, the world was quiet, a burnt sienna orb drifting quietly through the blackness of space.

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The sun rose peacefully and gracefully over the great city of Vystral Paard, the light gleaming from the metal and glass of its towering skyscrapers. In a housing estate on the end of the city this peace was broken by an incessant electronic bleeping. Sophie Bausch rolled over in bed, swatting the snooze button on the top of her alarm before turning back to her previous position. A moment later she came to with a jolt, scrabbling with one arm out to pull the yellow plastic wristwatch from her bedside table. Squinting through sleepy eyes at the readout, she let out an exasperated sigh. “Why do we even have a 5 in the morning?” she grumbled to herself, as she hastily dressed in the black jacket and trousers of her police uniform, managing to get the necktie on the third attempt. “One 5 o’clock a day is more than enough.” She concluded as she quickly checked her appearance in the mirror. The earliness of the hour was made all the more unpalatable by the fact that the clocks had gone forwards just two days previously, and her body was still fully convinced that this was four in the morning. Still, that had been on Sunday and now it was Tuesday, so there wasn’t much she could do to change that, beyond travelling back and somehow abolishing daylight savings. Shaking this silly notion from her head, Sophie put on her watch and ran a brush through her long blonde hair. The uniform was very smart and afforded her a grown up air of responsibility that she sometimes found a bit scary if she thought too hard about it. The yellow watch that was now on her wrist was, as yet, the only concession she had managed to get towards brightening the otherwise drab attire up a little. As someone who greatly enjoyed bright colours, the black and white of her uniform was the only thing in her job she particularly disliked. Still, she reasoned, once she moved her way through to the detective side of the force she’d be able to wear what she liked, a little perk that helped keep her striving towards this goal. Satisfied that she no longer looked as though she’d just crawled out of a hedge, Sophie made her way downstairs.

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When Sophie got down to the kitchen she found her father already there, jabbing a plastic fork into the toaster to try and fish out an errant piece of bread. This had become something of a regular morning routine of late. While Sophie’s mother had still lived there she had been the one to prepare the breakfasts. By the time her mother had left, Sophie was already a year into her police training, and her younger sister Monica was away at boarding school more often than she was at home. Grahame had endeavoured, nonetheless, to make the girls breakfasts for them whenever they were at home, although the toaster still seemed to give him difficulty nearly two years later. Sophie felt rather touched and just a little guilty that her father continued to wake up before her to get the breakfast ready, even now she was an adult with a job that started far earlier than his own, and her sister was only at home during the holidays. He turned around with a smile and offered her a plate with a slightly overdone piece of toast on it, which she took with a grateful smile. She was sure with enough marmalade it would still be perfectly edible. “I’ve had another letter from Monica.” Her father said, as Sophie made herself a cup of coffee, “Got very good marks in one of her tests last week, she’s very pleased about that. She seems to still be doing well, so that’s good.” “Of course she’s doing well, dad.” Sophie laughed, “She was smart enough to get a scholarship to one of the fanciest schools in the world, I don’t think the syllabus is going to be that hard for her. She’s always been the smart one.” Her father nodded slightly sheepishly as he tucked into a bowl of cereal. “Yes, I rather think she got that from your mother.” He admitted, “Still, you’ve been doing incredibly well yourself, I’m very proud of you, you know. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders.” “And I get that from you.” Sophie said with a grin. She eyed the clock on the wall, a slightly tacky owl shaped timepiece and saw that she would have to leave very soon. She could remember when she was much younger being very amused by the eyes of the owl, which had moved from side to side as it ticked. Unfortunately over time this feature had broken, most probably at the time her sister had knocked it off the wall, putting up decorations for a party. It was strange having the house so empty these days, she had grown up with her father being mostly away on business, when he worked for the forestry company, leaving her mostly with her mother and sister. The house felt very different now without the two of them around, and Sophie wondered how it must feel for her father when he was at home by himself, during the hours when she was at work and he was not. Time was marching on now, so Sophie finished her breakfast and rose from her chair, leaning across to give her father a quick kiss on the cheek as she did so. “I’d better get going.” She said, giving a final wave as she grabbed her bag and headed out into the morning sunshine.

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By the time Sophie had reached the city centre the rest of the population seemed to have awakened and come out in force, the streets now busy and bustling. Of course this part of the city never really went to sleep, unlike the quieter suburban areas, the centre of Vystral Paard operated all day long. Sophie had time to pick up a cup of coffee and a sandwich for later from her usual street vendor before the green light on her transport disk came on allowing her to teleport up to the Kashmir Planetary Police Force Headquarters. As a junior officer, Sophie’s transport disk had a limited range and operating time. After a large amount of unlicensed use of the transport disks a few years previously, where several young officers had used their disks as free travel for holidays and other pleasure jaunts, rules were put in place that only allowed the junior officers to take limited transport disks home with them, to take them from their nearest town or city centre to the Kashmir Planetary Police Force HQ and back again. Fully functioning disks were handed out to any officer on duty, which could be useful in emergencies, and other more substantial vehicles were available for official use once they were clocked in for the day, and had to be signed in and out. The main consequence of this rule, for Sophie, was that she needed to walk a good half hour into town in the morning before getting to work. She didn’t really mind, though, it helped her to get into the right frame of mind in a way that she suspected she wouldn’t if she could just teleport straight to work from her bedroom. It also cut down the chance of her coming in to work in her pyjamas or some other state of undress which, given her brain’s reluctance to wake up and stay up in the morning, was a definite possibility.

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In a flash of blue light, Sophie was whisked from the busy street in Vystral Paard to the KPPFHQ, several hundred miles northwest and about a mile up from the surface of the planet. It was a stark difference between the two locations, the locker room that the teleport took her to being metallic grey, gloomy and claustrophobic after the wide open plaza in Vystral Paard city centre. She put her bag and her sandwich into her locker before making her way to the main briefing hall, making sure to clock in first. It was standard procedure for the junior officers of the central KPPF to be gathered for a morning briefing, where they would be filled in on the events of the previous night and assigned to whatever duties they were required for. The central planetary force had two main groups of officers, a fairly equal mix from both longitudinal sides of the planet, so that those working a night shift from the perspective of Sophie and her colleagues were still working during the day from their own point of view. It was while walking down the corridor of the main block towards the briefing hall that Sophie found her duty sergeant, a middle aged woman by the name of Drinkwater with a disposition that could either be motherly or stern depending on how you interacted with her, stepping smartly out from her office and placing a gentle hand on Sophie’s arm to halt her progress. The sergeant looked at her kindly but with concern for a moment before speaking. “I’ve had a note from Commander Bryden” she said, “he wanted to see you as soon as you got in, if you could go and see him now.” “Do you know what it’s about?” Sophie asked tentatively. In the year she had been on the force she had never been summoned to an interview with the leader of the Planetary Police Force. She felt that this was probably something to worry about. “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” Sergeant Drinkwater reassured her, as if she had read Sophie’s thoughts, “If he had any serious concerns he’d come to me with them first, so unless you’ve been doing something really reckless that you haven’t told me about it’ll probably just be a review of your performance or something of the sort” Sgt Drinkwater gave her a reassuring pat on the arm and Sophie suddenly found herself being turned around and shepherded towards the end of the corridor, where she stopped at the doors through to the stairwell that lead up to the managerial corridor. At the top of this aesthetically unimposing flight of stairs were the offices of the most important figures on the police force; Commander Donal Bryden – The overall chief of the Planetary Police Force, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Batt – Bryden’s second in command, and head of the crime detection side of the force, Hayley Mackintosh-Bryden – the commander’s wife and head of the patrol and law enforcement side of the force, as well as offices for half a dozen other senior officers and administrators for the police force. In short, it was the place where some of the planets most important decisions were made by some of the most Influential people. Sophie had only been to the top of these stairs once, and then it was only to the main office to request a replacement student card after losing her first one during her time at the police training academy. “Quickly now, we don’t want to keep the commander waiting” Sgt Drinkwater urged, a little more firmly this time, snapping Sophie from her ponderings. She pushed open the light wooden door and stepped into the grey stairwell. Her heavy boots were unusually silent on the aged linoleum that lined the steps as she made her way up, and the morning sunlight, coming in through the windows that made up the far side of the stairwell, shone frosty and grey. Coupled with the unusual silence that seemed to have fallen as she had left the stuffy corridor, Sophie was left feeling as if she was ascending through a dream. Soon enough she came to the top of the stairs and shook the fanciful thoughts from her mind as she entered the managerial corridor. It was strange to think that this area was directly above the place where she came to work every day, so close and yet almost entirely unseen in her day to day life. The corridor was slightly more luxurious, although still very utilitarian. There was a worn carpet on the floor, the walls were plastered instead of the plastic coated metal panels of the main areas, and the doors were far more widely spaced, each room having a hammered glass window into the corridor that she was cautiously walking down. It was outside one of these doors that she now stopped, waiting a moment to compose herself before knocking just loudly enough to guarantee being heard and no more. With barely a delay, a male voice, deep and authoritative, called back to her. “Come in.”

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The office of Donal Bryden was open and spacious, the desk being in as unobtrusive a position as the size and shape of the room would permit, and the blinds lifted away from the window to allow the light fully into the room. Coming in, Sophie was instructed to take a seat and looked with some consideration at the sofa that took up most of the back wall before tactfully selecting the least comfortable looking chair in the room. She had found that when dealing with authority it was always best to not appear casual if at all possible. As Sophie saw it, if the person in charge does not feel their authority is being challenged they were more likely to be reasonable. The chair Sophie had chosen looked old, and was made quite crudely from a rough plastic shape affixed to a set of crossed metal legs. It put Sophie in mind of the chairs her secondary school had had when she had first gone there, before the council had them replaced with a load of new chairs that had been specially designed to make it impossible to rock back on them. The comparison made Sophie feel a little like she was at school now, about to be reprimanded for mischief by the head teacher. Bryden’s face, however, as he looked up from the paperwork on his desk, was a reassuring one. “You needn’t look so worried.” Bryden smiled at her, “I just wanted to have a word with you about this application you’ve put in for the detective constable course. I admire your ambition, but you’ve really not been on the force for very long, do you not think perhaps you’re rushing things?” Sophie had almost forgotten about the form she’d submitted, it had been over a week ago, which in the busy life of a young police officer was more than long enough to push it far into the back of her mind. It had really been little more than a whim, after seeing the application forms in a tray beneath the notice board she had decided there couldn’t be any harm in trying. She decided now, however, if the head of the planetary police force wanted to discuss why she had submitted the form, that a better thought through justification might be needed. “Well you see, sir, it’s always been the detective side of policing that’s interested me most.” She explained, being careful to maintain a respectful tone, “And I’ve been working very hard to gain as much experience and merit on the job as I can.” Bryden nodded at this, “That’s certainly true,” he agreed, “I have your performance reports here, you were tasked with reducing the crime rates of the potato men in Jaheeb, I believe.” “Yes, that’s right” Sophie nodded enthusiastically, “they had this street stall con going on where they took three potatoes…” “Yes,” Bryden interrupted, “I’m familiar with the potato men, and I am aware that you managed, over the course of a few months, to catch almost every potato man in the city, which is no mean feat. The problem as I see it is what you did after you’d arrested the potato men. There is, constable, a very good reason why we assign new officers to deal with petty crime for their first year of service. You need to build up experience with the process of the law, and dealing with people who break it. Petty crime is a good introduction to the practical side of that, with slightly less dangerous ramifications. I’m sure you’re aware of that.” Sophie nodded silently, knowing now where this was going. “After the potato men had been rounded up,” Bryden continued, “You decided to follow up on a lead given by one of the men you had just arrested, pertaining to a major drugs ring in the city, and without checking in, reporting the lead to your duty sergeant or even just letting someone else know where you were going, you marched in and arrested the purported leader of this drugs ring. Can you see what the problem is here?” “In fairness, sir,” Sophie ventured, “It turned out that he was the leader of the drugs ring, so we got the right man.” Bryden looked a little exasperated at this, “That, Miss Bausch, is beside the point. You went in under-experienced, and without backup into the den of a violent and dangerous criminal to arrest him. I ran into him once, back when he was a minor player on the Jaheeb crime scene, he’s taller than me and built like a house. You only managed to come out of that in one piece because he was too shocked at the idea of a young slip of a girl coming in to arrest him to put up any sort of resistance. Next time you won’t be so lucky, believe me.” “Does this mean I’m being officially reprimanded?” Sophie asked with some trepidation. Bryden sighed. “No, no you’re not; consider this a friendly warning, off the record. Look, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but under normal circumstances you wouldn’t have gotten into the police training academy as soon as you did. The policy had been strictly sixteen and up and you were, I believe, a month and a half short of that when your first term started. Usually we’d have made you wait until the following year, but I had received a glowing character reference some months previously from a very close friend of mine, whose opinion I value greatly. It was because of that that we overlooked the age discrepancy and let you into the class early. Now don’t get me wrong, you more than proved yourself worthy of the place in the academy, you were one of the best students the program has seen, but I rather fear that being younger than your fellow officers has set you up with higher expectations to meet than most. You were the youngest student in the history of the Academy, you graduated onto the force when you were seventeen, which made you the youngest officer in over fifty years, you’ve been with us a year now and you’re not even nineteen yet.” It must have been clear from Sophie’s face that she had lost track of where this conversation was going, because Bryden awkwardly shuffled some papers on his desk and tried a different track, “As I see it you are a conscientious and able officer,” he said, “you have enthusiasm and ambition, but you need to temper it with an understanding of your own limits. You need to know when to ask for help, and when a situation is too dangerous. I see your father at a lot of official events in Vystral Paard, you know, I rather suspect that things would become very unpleasant between us if anything were to happen to you.” Sophie shuffled uncomfortably in her seat at the idea. “With that in mind,” Bryden concluded, “I am willing to give you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability in detective work, within a relatively controlled and educational environment. As such, I have been in touch with Chief Inspector Maertitch over at the Velhadrogahn police division, he’s agreed for you to be transferred to there for the next month to shadow Detective Sergeant 1-Demi. This is on the understanding that she will be your supervisor, mentor and commanding officer, so whatever she tells you to do you do, and you don’t go off on your own little adventures without her approval. She’s one of the best officers I’ve worked with, so I want you on your best behaviour, is that clear?” “Oh yes sir, thank you very much sir!” Sophie had to resist the urge to jump from her seat and give the Commander a hug. This had been more than she could possibly have hoped for. “I won’t let you down, sir.” She promised. “Good,” Bryden smiled, “and if DS Demi gives you a good report then I will consider your application for the Detective Constable training program. That’ll be all for now, Constable, leave the door open on the way out.”

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Sophie bounded down the steps in a state of great anticipation. She had never been to Velhadrogahn, and the idea of helping with detective work there was like a dream. Her duty sergeant had a folder of paperwork and details waiting for her when she got back to the staff room. She was to spend the rest of the day completing any outstanding work, and passing any unresolved incidents on to the necessary people and then pack a suitcase when she got home, with a view to travel on the interplanetary jet bus to Velhadrogahn the following morning. Life, it seemed, had never been so exciting.

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Constable Bausch had not long since left Bryden’s office when a head of bushy brown hair poked itself in through the door. It was the unmistakable moustached face of his second in command Detective Chief Inspector Harry Batt. “Here, Donal, man, are you free now? “ he asked, entering the office and placing a pile of papers down on Bryden’s desk, “Only I was wondering if we could go through this prisoner release report, they’re wanting our opinion on how likely this bloke is to reoffend, and I cannae get my head around it, like.” “I don’t have anything pressing to do right now, Harry, what’s the story with this one? They don’t send these up to us very often.” “No, I only get them if the original arresting officer is unavailable, we’ve hit an awkward period where the longer term prisoner sentences are running out, we’ve had so many staff changes the past six years, pretty much anyone who’s been in longer than that are getting sent for me to review. This one was taken in eight years back, for armed robbery of a convenience store, very violent incident, very messy.” “So what happened to the arresting officer in this case?” Bryden asked. “That would be PC Brakosniev,” Batt replied, “He was killed in the first Dalek attack, just before you started. He was a good lad, I had him on my force in Vystral Paard for a while back in the day, he was about the only straight officer I ever had. I think he started out in Velhadrogahn, the training centre there seemed to produce more decent lads than most at that time.” Bryden acknowledged this simply with a nod, the idea that for all the corruption that was in the force at that time, one of the few honest officers should be killed in such a brutal and unnecessary manner was very upsetting, even after all this time. “Well seeing as neither of us was working directly for the KPPF when this chap was arrested,” he responded at last, “I suggest we look at our report objectively. A violent robber is just a desperate and scared man who’s managed to arm himself. There are three ways to solve that, you can keep him locked away forever out of the way, you can put a lot of effort into making sure he can’t get access to any weapons, or you can try and fix things so that he doesn’t feel scared or desperate anymore. Personally I favour the latter, but the prison system will know for themselves how effectively they can provide any of those solutions. If they think they’ve rehabilitated him then by all means they should let him out. If they haven’t managed to, after all this time, then he’s either a very bad egg or they need to seriously re-evaluate their prison system.” Harry Batt had been hastily jotting this down on a little notepad. “Thanks, man, I’ll put that on the form then.” He smiled. “I’d better get to work on that now, the paperwork builds up that quickly you need to get it done as soon as you have it or you get proper swamped like.” Batt moved to leave the room. “Oh, by the way, Harry,” Bryden called after him. Batt paused in the doorway. “I’ve been speaking to Hayley, and we’d both really like for you to be our son’s godfather.” Batt’s face lit up, “Of course, Donal, I’d be honoured man, when are you expecting him? Can’t be long now.” “Just a few weeks.” Bryden smiled. “It’s a shame I never see the Doctor any more, he’d have liked to have heard, I’m sure.” “I haven’t seen anything of him in years.” Batt agreed, “Not since your wedding.” “I was surprised he made it to that, to be honest.” Bryden Smiled wistfully, “Or, indeed she, as was the case on that particular occasion. Given that I’d been told the Doctor wasn’t coming back to Kashmir after that last mess, I wouldn’t have known it was her if she hadn’t announced herself.” “Aye, and that invitation looked like a bloomin antique” Batt agreed, “I think she must have left it a pretty long time before coming.” “I suppose that’s one of the quirks of being friends with a shape shifting time traveller,” Bryden mused. “But I was just happy she made it there, it didn’t really matter to me what face she decided to wear…”

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Sophie gave a yawn as she tried to fight the urge to fall asleep, eating a handful of crisps to try and boost up her energy levels. Sitting on a two day bus ride didn’t really afford much else to do besides snoozing, but Sophie had always thought that sleeping on public transport had an awfully unflattering effect on people, and she was just a bit too self-conscious to want to pull sleeping faces in front of a busload of strangers. The bus would be pulling over for the night at a somewhat pretentiously named “sleeping station” in another… she checked her watch, the bright yellow plastic hurting her tired eyes… another ten hours. She had stayed in a similar establishment the previous summer, just after her graduation, on a celebratory holiday to Widja-Zuzu, and had been less than impressed at having to spend the night sleeping in what was barely larger than a coffin. It was more a storage facility for sleeping people than it was a hotel. Still, it was better than sleeping on the bus. It was a little after mid-day now, seven hours into the journey. She’d had to get up even earlier than she usually did for work, and the lengthy nothingness of the bus journey was not making her feel any more wide awake. Her father had been as excited about her placement as she had been, although he was sad at the prospect of not seeing Sophie for the next month. It would be the first time he’d have a house to himself, without any of the rest of the family there since he had last been away on work placement with the Forestry Commission. Sophie had secretly phoned her sister on the journey out, suggesting she take a weekend at home at some point during the next month to make sure he was managing fine and hadn’t somehow set the house on fire. Sophie checked her watch again. It was only 5 minutes since she had last checked. She sighed in defeat and turned herself into a more comfortable position, to hopefully sleep in as dignified a manner as she could.

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Sophie’s Bus arrived the following night. Due to damage to a bridge just before Velhadrogahn, they had ended up taking a sizable detour at the end, leaving them two hours late in arriving. Sophie, feeling exhausted, had made it to the police accommodation building, picked up her key from the night porter and stumbled to her allotted room on the first floor just and no more before dropping off to sleep, fully clothed, in the welcomingly comfortable bed. The following morning she had officially checked in at the main police headquarters next door. She had not had a very good look at the building the previous night, what with the darkness and her sleep deprived brain only taking in the most essential of information. Seeing it now, however, in the full light of day, it was one of the most impressive edifices she had seen. It towered above her in a monolithic structure, the stonework intricate and complex, clearly being very old. To either side, modern metal and glass constructed wings spread the building widthways, designed in a sympathetic manner so as to compliment the old tower at the centre, rather than swallowing it up. Inside, at the main desk of the entrance hallway, Sophie had handed her credentials to the receptionist, who had instructed one of his assistants to take Sophie round to DS Demi’s office. Since being assigned this placement, Sophie had been nervous about meeting Detective Sergeant Demi, also known as Officer 1 Demi or 01D. The detective Sergeant was one of the first two female androids on the force, after the sweeping reforms Donal Bryden had made in his first year in command. She, much like Sophie, had had a lot to live up to and had proven herself admirably, rising rapidly through the ranks and getting a permanent posting on the Velhadrogahn force. Sophie had never met the android officer, but knew her from reputation and very much looked up to her. The idea of meeting someone who had, in the past six years, essentially done exactly what Sophie intended to do filled her with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. She knew that if she did not meet with the Detective Sergeant’s approval it would be a crushing blow for her, both professionally and personally. The assistant receptionist stopped at the door to one of the small offices on the corridor and knocked. After a moment a friendly sounding female voice, with just a slight mechanical undertone asked her to come in.

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Sophie found herself sitting in a room remarkably similar to the office of Commander Donal Bryden. “I hope your journey here was a pleasant one.” Detective Sergeant Demi asked, with a friendly smile. “It was ok,” Sophie nodded, “a little bit too long, I was very tired by the time I got here.” “That is to be expected, I’m afraid, your home town is a very long way away.” The Detective Sergeant said sympathetically. “Still, you seem to have had a good night’s sleep, you are looking very alert and well rested. If you don’t mind I’d like to run you through the details of your placement.” Officer 1 Demi was not really what Sophie had expected. She looked very young, for one thing, and had the sort of looks one might expect of a movie star. As she went over the work placement details, essentially the same information Commander Bryden had given three days previously, Sophie found that there was something about 01D’s manner of speaking that was slightly unusual. It wasn’t so much the metallic undertone to the voice, because that was immediately noticeable, rather there was something harder to pin down. Everything Demi said came across as being stated fact. There was no uncertainty in what she said, no ifs or maybe. She spoke in a way that made it seem as if the words had been specifically chosen as the most suited to the situation. In fact Sophie imagined that if a situation came up that did perplex or confuse DS Demi, she would convey this in a very matter of fact way too. She put Sophie in mind of a boy in her class at school some years ago who had had Asperger’s Syndrome. The effect was not a strange one per say, it was more a sensation that DS Demi saw and interpreted the world around her in a very different way. After the more formal introduction was over, Demi took Sophie on a brief tour of the station, talking now in a less formal manner as they went. “How did you find the training program?” She asked, as they passed through the staff canteen. “It was very interesting,” Sophie replied, “We got basic training in police procedure and a sort of general education in language and maths and science, all those sorts of things. I had a lot of fun, I made quite a few friends. I was in the drama club, too, that was pretty nice.” The Detective Sergeant seemed interested in this. “The School leaver program hadn’t been set up when I trained; I suppose if it had I still wouldn’t have been eligible. The adult recruitment program is certainly adequate but I thought the training academy was an excellent idea when I heard they were bringing it back. I think, with organic lifeforms at least, the earlier you introduce ideas and concepts the better. A school leaver program allows the Force to find the best of those who are interested in policing at a young age and let them hone their skills as early as possible.” “I think you took tutorials in detective work for a while at the academy, didn’t you?” Sophie asked conversationally. The Android DS nodded, “Yes, I don’t think you were in the class I took, it was a second year course, I believe you would have been in first year when I took it. It was a required part of the promotion to detective sergeant, the KPPF like to have their officers versed in as broad a spectrum of expertise as possible, so teaching experience is needed for the DS program. You hope to enter the detective side yourself, I hear.” “Yes.” Sophie replied. Demi gave a nod, “you will end up doing some teaching work yourself eventually, in that case, something similar to what I was doing at the academy.” “I heard you were very good at it,” Sophie said, “our detective studies tutor wasn’t very interested in the class, the lecturer said he wished he still had you around.” The Detective Sergeant smiled at this, “Unfortunately, after I had had my promotion I found myself too busy with work to keep up the teaching role. I enjoyed it a lot, though, I suspect that is why I have been given the job of supervising your placement here, it is a chance to revisit my time as a teacher.”

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The tour continued in much the same way. It took most of the morning to see the entire station; Sophie had thus far worked from the police stations in Jaheeb and Vystral Paard and they had nowhere near the sort of size of building Velhadrogahn had. She could see now why it was known as the great city. Detective Sergeant Demi had turned out to be surprisingly easy to get on with, which Sophie was happy about. Although the Detective Sergeant had the necessary air of command she managed to come across as very friendly and genuinely interested in Sophie’s experiences on the force so far. Sophie had even found the time to ask her new mentor about the Velhadrogahn Police Department uniforms, which she had noted with a hint of envy were a rather more interesting blue shade than her own black uniform. DS Demi had had to admit that the reasons for this regional variation were unknown to her, as it was not something that she had ever given much thought to. Sophie made a mental note to put something in the suggestions box once she had returned to the KPPF HQ after her placement had ended. Although she was aware that she would be able to wear her own clothes if and when she made it to Detective Inspector, that was not going to be at any time in the foreseeable future, and Sophie would be the first to admit that she had a bit of a weak spot when it came to colourful clothing. The guided tour ended at the building’s Detective Investigation Department central control room, where Sophie found herself rather abruptly thrust into the action as her android mentor began darting around the room, checking sheets of freshly printed paper and speaking to various telephone operators. “I am sorry for the sudden start, constable,” she said with an apologetic smile, “but it seems things have moved rather quicker than I had anticipated on my current case. We are going to have to get out into the field a little earlier than I was intending. Are you going to be ok with visiting an active crime scene?” Sophie nodded, trying not to appear too nervous. “I have to start somewhere,” she reasoned, “There’s no time like the present.”

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In the cruiser, on route to the crime scene, DS Demi filled Sophie in on the case she was working on. “It all started about six months ago,” she began, “we were finding a lot of the local criminals killed in suspicious circumstances. Of course had it just been one or two we would have assumed they had crossed the wrong person, made one mistake too many for their employer. Cases like that can go cold very quickly. But the number of these deaths was great enough that we had to press the matter. It had all the signs of someone pushing their way to the top of the pile, a new crime lord in the making.” “I heard there was a big underground crime community here,” Sophie said, “like there was in Vystral Paard when I was younger. Do you think it’s someone working from there?” “We did to start with.” The Detective Sergeant explained, “But we’d made big steps in recent years in reducing their strength, and the mood of the underground seems very uneasy, very uncertain. We’re thinking now that it’s an outsider, come to the city to capitalise on the decline of the underground community. We had an extensive raid on the safety deposit storage facility two weeks ago. It was carefully planned and meticulously carried out. Eight Billion credits worth of Azbantium and Diamonds were stolen, and every guard on duty at the facility killed in a very vicious manner. Since then we have been following several leads and they all seem to be leading us toward a small privately owned lock-up on the west end of the city.” “And that’s where we’re going now?” Sophie asked. “Precisely.”, the android DS replied stoically.

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Were it not for the police cordon that was being set up as the cruiser pulled up on the scene, the lock-up would have been a singularly unimportant looking place. Built into the arch of a railway viaduct, it was a little larger than the average garage, but far smaller than any sort of warehouse. A VPD officer, wearing gloves, was carefully prying the lock from the insubstantial wooden door as Sophie and DS Demi approached. Once inside, there were several things that struck Sophie; firstly, the feeling of excitement she had expected from her first proper crime scene was entirely absent, its place being taken by one of unease. This was largely due to the two other things that were jumping out from her first glance at the inside of the lock-up. The small confined space was surprisingly cold, far colder than a small brick enclosure ought to be on as sunny a day as it was. The most unsettling thing, however, was the contents of the space she found herself in. She had not been entirely sure what she had expected to find in the lock-up, but most likely it would have been a general detritus of car parts, other mechanical odds and ends, perhaps some dusty boxes of forgotten trinkets. If they had been really lucky it would have been full of holdalls containing stolen diamonds, with an unresisting criminal hiding amongst them, ready to admit defeat and come with them quietly. The latter, of course was highly unlikely and even Sophie, green though she was, knew that. It would, however, still have been a more expected sight than the one that actually met them. The lock-up was almost completely empty. Most of the space was shrouded with darkness, but it was an open sort of darkness, hiding no secrets from eyes adjusting to the change in lighting. In the centre of the room was an old television set, screaming silent static, and casting the only light besides that which seeped in from the doorway behind them. In front of the television was a chair, a rather dated egg-shaped swivel chair upholstered in a faded green fabric. Even from the door, Sophie could see that the chair was occupied, and that the occupant was sitting far too still. It only took Sophie a few moments to take this all in, but in that time her mentor had strode across the room and was inspecting the body. Sophie tentatively made her way over to join her. Sophie had seen death before, even before her police training had begun, when she had been barely more than a child, but the sight of it still distressed her. This unfortunate man appeared to have been strangled, attested to by the cable from the television, which wound its way tightly around his neck several times before disappearing into the darkness where it was no-doubt plugged into a power point. The effect was undone, however, by a dark wound in the man’s abdomen. From the quantity of blood resent, it was evident that the stab wound had killed him, with the cable added afterwards for effect. “I have arrested this man before.” Demi observed drily, “Gordon Colquhoun, he carried out some of the most outlandish heists of the last few decades before a lengthy prison spell. Not much more than a petty criminal after his release. Whoever was behind this obviously wanted an expert for the diamond job. A disposable expert.” Turning her head away, Sophie’s attention was suddenly caught by a bright green post-it note affixed to the corner of the television screen. Leaning in carefully so as to avoid touching either the television set or the note, she peered through the gloomy light to make out what it said. “Better luck next time” she read out. “What sort of person would do something like this?” she asked Demi. “We have no doubt about that, constable,” the Detective Sergeant replied, “We are dealing with a maniac here.” As the android DS inspected the body, there was a flare of inner light from behind her eyes. “This body is still quite warm…” she surmised, “His killer must still be very near.” The Detective Sergeant was suddenly more alert, and as officers began to fill the room with torchlight she motioned for silence. The sound of an engine no more than two streets away roared into life, before disappearing in a screech of tires. “Get city surveillance!” DS Demi ordered briskly, “that was a ground vehicle, an old one from the sound of it, leaving southwards from Mansfield Crescent. I want it traced and tracked by the time I get to the cruiser and I do not want any diversions until we have stopped it and apprehended its occupant.” She turned on her heel and made for the door, Sophie scuttling to keep up. “Be in no doubt, officers,” Demi concluded as they exited the lock-up, “the driver of that vehicle is the criminal we are looking for.”

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The ensuing cruiser ride had been far more intense, fast and solemn in atmosphere than the one to the lock up. It was immediately clear to Sophie from this situation why an android could do as well in the police force as Detective Sergeant Demi had done; the android officer interfaced seamlessly between the constant stream of updates on the movements of the vehicle below, and the operation of the cruiser. It was all the accompanying cruisers could do to keep up as Demi navigated the perfect route for the shortest intercept distance. Sophie watched from her seat in amazement as, seemingly from nowhere, a battered old sports car shot across an intersection beneath them, the Detective sergeant turning the Cruiser almost on the spot and shooting down the road after the rogue vehicle. Although the driver should surely by now have spotted the increasing swarm of police cruisers pursuing it, they showed no sign of slowing down; continuing to dart precariously around the tall buildings of the city’s south side, the high obstacles negating any real advantage that the flying police cruisers might have over the road vehicle. Were it to leave the high rise district and break away through the suburban outer belt of the city the cruisers would very quickly be able to outmanoeuvre it, however the thought of such reckless driving as this fugitive was displaying, through a quiet street filled with civilians and children, made this prospect widely unappealing. To Sophie’s surprise, from her high vantage point, she saw the car skid to a halt at the end of the long boulevard, next to one of the taller buildings in the area. As the police convoy closed in, a huddled figure emerged from the car and dashed across the short distance into the building. From the fleeting glimpse they got of him he appeared to be male, stocky but not especially tall. The man’s face was obscured by the hood of a grey hoodie, so there was no way to tell how old he was, but he moved quickly, and as the cruisers gathered around the abandoned car they could see that the door he had entered through was a heavy duty security door, and had been forced open. They had seen from the lock-up that this man was dangerously unhinged, but it was now quite apparent that he was also in possession of a dangerous physical strength. Detective Sergeant Demi rapidly assigned tasks to the officers. “Cruisers seven, eight and ten make a cordon around the building,” she instructed, “cover every exit. I want cruiser three to cover every floor, search for the fugitive, and seal off every room once it’s cleared. From the look of it, he is going up. I am going to follow and apprehend him.” One of the officers looked set to argue this point, but the Detective Sergeant cut him off. “This is not up for debate, Sergeant Blake,” she said, “As an android I am more resistant to injury and can recover more rapidly. You, along with the rest of cruiser four and cruiser five will follow close behind, to provide backup as soon as it is required.” She looked intently at a dark window part way up the building, “I believe he is headed for the roof.”

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The elevator doors slid open silently on the top floor of the building. The office block was, at that moment, closed for refurbishments, so there were no civilians to evacuate, or potentially lose the criminal among. Detective Sergeant Demi had calculated that the elevator would get them up to the top before their quarry could finish climbing the stairs, giving them the element of surprise. Having not been given any instructions to the contrary, Sophie had gone up in the lift with her mentor. The backup had been instructed to follow up the stairs, to cut off the criminal’s route, should he choose to double back on himself. Sophie could not for the life of her think what he would want to go to the top of a building for, if he was trying to evade capture, but the idea of a desperate and violent criminal cornered on a rooftop made her nervous. She was determined to keep calm for her new mentor, however, and show that she could be brave and reliable in dangerous situations. The last stretch of stairwell, needed to get from the top floor to the roof, was cold and harshly lit by a single bulb and, stepping out onto the roof, the sudden increase of light was almost blinding. The air up here had a strange taste of ozone, and Sophie wondered in the back of her mind if there was a thunderstorm on its way. DS Demi did not seem affected by any of this, moving swiftly behind the stairway opening to wait for their fugitive to arrive. She motioned for Sophie to join her. “When he comes out, I want you to stay back here, Constable Bausch. Ideally you shouldn’t be up here with me, but there was not sufficient time to reassign you. You are to remain here unless otherwise instructed, is that understood?” “Yes Sergeant.” Sophie nodded. At that moment the door to the stairs burst open and the grey hooded figure strode out onto the roof with a confident swagger. “Come on then, officer, I know you’re out here, show yourself!” he bellowed. The android DS stepped from the shadow of the stairwell. “Sir, you are under arrest for the murder of Gordon Colquhoun, orchestration of the heist on the safety deposit storage facility, with further charges pending an investigation on your involvement in a recent spate of linked crimes.” “Oh, I don’t think so, love.” The man smiled “Much as I’d love to come back with you, maybe a few drinks, see where the evening takes us, I don’t feel like we’ve been properly introduced.” The man pulled off his hood, revealing a surprisingly youthful face- he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties- with a livid scar running under his left eye. “The name’s Roberts,” he announced, as he expected applause for this revelation, “You can call me Buck or, if you like, Mr Future Overlord of Velhadrogahn. Hey, why not overlord of Kashmir, no harm in dreaming big, right?” “Mr Roberts,” Demi persisted, unaffected by the man’s bravado, “You are under arrest. You will accompany me to the station. You will not resist.” “Well that’s the bluntest offer I’ve had all week.” Roberts smirked lecherously, “But here’s thing… I own the criminal underworld of this city. It’s not taken me long to get where I am. Give me a year and I’ll be running your police force too. So seeing as I’m going to be your boss in a little while, it’s probably not appropriate for us to get too intimate, eh sweetheart?” DS Demi ignored this and advanced on Roberts, pulling the handcuffs from the clip on her belt. “Please do not resist, Mr Roberts.” “Oh yes, very kinky, but I think I’ll have to pass.” Robert’s said, suddenly grabbing Demi’s arm, twisting it around with incredible strength and pulling her towards him. “Alright, Junior, out you come!” he shouted towards the doorway, where Sophie had been watching and waiting throughout this exchange. She had not been aware that he had seen her. “Is that really all you’ve brought up with you?” He asked Demi mockingly, “The work experience kid? Never mind, here’s how this is going to go down,” he turned to address Sophie again, as she stepped out from the shadows. “I want you to get on your little police radio and tell your station to send one of those nice police cruisers up here. It’s nothing personal, but I’m getting rather tired of hanging around up here with you two, you’re cramping my style. And those cruisers are really nice, every self-respecting criminal should get one. Come on then, chop chop!” Sophie looked to her supervisor for instruction, but the Detective Sergeant shook her head. “Leave the radio alone, constable.” She said, before twisting to look her assailant in the eye, “We do not negotiate with terrorists, Mr Roberts, and we do not just give out police cruisers to any hostage taker that wants one.” Roberts scowled at this. “Yes, I think we can dispense with your services, darling, let’s just keep this between me and Barbie here…” apparently from nowhere, Roberts produced a long pointed steel blade and drove it into Demi’s abdomen. Releasing her from his grip, he evidently expected her to drop dead at his feet, but to his clear astonishment, she merely staggered backwards from him, pulling the blade out amidst a shower of sparks. “You’re an android?” he said the word as if it were a slur, “They let androids run their police operations? That’s obscene, that is, that really turns my stomach. What gives a mindless machine like you the right to decide what real people like me should be doing? I was hitting on you too, I feel dirty…” Ignoring this rather bigoted tirade, the Detective Sergeant slid the knife away across the surface of the roof towards Sophie. “Constable Bausch, bag that as evidence,” She instructed, the slightest hint of waver creeping into her voice, “As for you… Buck, you are under arrest.” The next few moments passed almost as if in slow motion. As Sophie picked up the knife from her feet she fumbled and almost dropped it. Detective Sergeant Demi turned as the glint of the falling blade caught her eye and Sophie lifted it up to show that she had caught it. Suddenly, from the sky, a pulsing purple light arced into the knife, bursting into a glowing nova that engulfed the rooftop with a sound like a thunderclap. Within the smallest fraction of an instant, the world around Sophie was ripped apart in an implosion of reality.

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TO BE CONTINUED
Do you know who I miss? That guy with the potatoes, let's bring him back...

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DukeNukem 2417
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Re: The Second Time Around

Postby DukeNukem 2417 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:19 pm

VERY nice! Well worth the wait, and a brilliant start to this spinoff. Can't wait for the rest. 8-)

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bad geminton
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Re: The Second Time Around

Postby bad geminton » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:31 pm

Chapter Two: Yesterday never comes

Sophie opened one tentative eye to find herself lying on the damp surface of the high rise buildings flat roof. Her right arm was spread out in front of her, Roberts’ knife resting a few inches from her outstretched fingers. She realised with some alarm that she could not feel any sensation in her arm, and hastily sat up to massage some life back into it. Looking around, as the feeling returned to her arm, she was able to take in the scene around her; from the flash that had hit them she had assumed some sort of explosive had detonated, or perhaps a large energy weapon had discharged. The rooftop area, however, appeared entirely undamaged, and DS Demi, although now looking decidedly unsteady, was still facing off against Roberts. Roberts, on the other hand, was looking decidedly spooked, and was backing his way towards the exit. As he passed, he caught Sophie off guard, pushing her to the floor and grabbing his knife from the ground next to her. There was a wild look in his eyes as he took a defensive stance in front of the exit. “That was all very impressive, ladies, I’m sure you put a lot of work into your freaky little light-show, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough to keep me here, so if you don’t mind…” Roberts was cut off as the doors behind him were flung open, and an officer that Sophie did not recognise burst through. “Everyone keep your hands where I can see them!” the new arrival – a young man – instructed. “Constable, you will stand down.” DS Demi replied calmly, “The situation is under control.” Before the young constable could respond, however, Roberts spun around, plunging his knife deep into his chest, causing the younger man to crumple to the ground. Without even a backwards glance, Roberts stepped over the body and disappeared down the stairs. Sophie ran to the aid of the young constable, trying to stem the bleeding somehow. The young man was unresponsive, however, and Sophie began to realise with a sinking dread that he was not going to make it. There’s nothing you can do, constable,” DS Demi said from behind her, “he’s already dead.” Sophie turned to face her mentor, but found the Android Detective Sergeant swaying on her feet. Before Sophie could ask her what the matter was, the DS collapsed to the floor. Sophie scrambled across the rough surface of the rooftop to help her. “What’s happening?” she asked, confused and concerned by her supervisor’s sudden deterioration. “Roberts’ knife has damaged some of my circuitry.” Demi replied, her voice far more robotic and modulated than before. “He hasn’t damaged anything vital, fortunately he was unaware that I was an android, a few inches to the right and he would have caused an irreparable systems failure. I can bypass the affected circuitry for now, until it can be replaced, but I’ll need something sharp to access the damaged area.” Demi’s eyes darted meaningfully towards the fallen body of the dead constable. Sophie felt slightly nauseous as she realised what her Sergeant wanted her to do. “Isn’t there anything else we can use?” she asked hesitantly. Demi shook her head “We don’t have time to argue, constable” she said. Sophie got up and walked to the body cautiously. Looking away as she did so, she tentatively outstretched a hand and removed the knife from the dead officer’s abdomen. After hastily passing the knife to the Android DS, Sophie crossed the rooftop, not wanting to watch her mentor’s self-operation, and looked out across the city, feeling a little bit faint. After a moment or two, a rather important thought occurred to her; she pulled out her radio and pressed the call button. “Hello, is that headquarters?” she asked, receiving no reply. She tried adjusting the dial “Hello? Headquarters? Cruiser seven patrol? Can anyone hear me?” There was not even a hiss of static from the little radio; it seemed to be entirely inoperable. Sophie turned back to her Sergeant, who seemed to be finished with her repairs for now and was looking around her. “Is your radio working?” Sophie asked her, “Mine seems to be broken.” The Detective Sergeant took out her own radio and switched it on; once again nothing happened. “Maybe we should try his one?” Sophie suggested, crossing to the fallen body once more and unclipping the radio, still feeling uneasy about doing so. When she pressed the call button, the little radio hissed into life. “Hello, officer 238, what is the nature of your call?” a voice crackled out of the speaker. Sophie was about to explain their predicament, when DS Demi, now back on her feet, knocked the radio from Sophie’s hand. “What did you do that for?” Sophie asked, confused. “Look around you.” The Detective Sergeant replied, “This is not right. I was not paying attention before, my systems were compromised, but now that I can see clearly… can you not see it?” Sophie looked around at the rooftop, but it all looked much the same to her as it had from the start. “The rooftop area was more weathered before, there was moss growing on the underside of that overhang.” The Detective Sergeant explained. “The flagstones in that corner were cracked, the paint on the door was a less vibrant shade of red… And this officer,” she pointed to the dead man by the doorway, “I know every member of the Velhadrogahn Police Department, I have never seen this man in my life. Even his radio is an outdated design. The only conclusion that I can draw from the evidence available is that, somehow, we have been displaced in time by approximately nine years.” “But that’s impossible… isn’t it?” Sophie asked. “I am not an expert on temporal physics.” Demi admitted, “But I would think that that flash of energy we experienced just before Roberts escaped was indicative of some sort of time fluctuation. The issue now is not one of what is happening, but what we are to do now.” “Surely we need to go out and capture Roberts?” Sophie answered, “I mean we needed to arrest him anyway, but it’s more important now than ever, if we have him running about in the past anything could happen.” “It is not as simple as that, constable.” The Detective Sergeant replied, “We have no authority here. Sophie Bausch is nine years old and O1D hasn’t even been constructed yet. We cannot make an arrest because in the world we have been sent back to, we’re not police officers yet.” Sophie nodded at this, grasping the general idea of what her Sergeant was trying to tell her, even if the more complex aspects of their predicament were somewhat beyond her grasp. “So what do we do?” Sophie asked at last. Demi appeared to give this a great deal of thought before replying. “KPPF protocols regarding officers stuck outside of their jurisdiction are quite thin,” she explained, “and are only really intended to apply to off world chases that pass out of Kashmiran territories. Nonetheless, the basic premise is the same; we are to return to our headquarters with the utmost speed to re-evaluate the situation and if need be arrange for an extradition, all while taking due care not to break any native laws.” Sophie gave a sigh and shook her head, “That’s all fine,” she said, “but we have no idea how to get home, we’re stuck here.” She looked at the radio that Demi had knocked from her hand, which now lay cracked on the ground “And now that I’ve called headquarters on the radio, they’ll almost certainly send someone over to investigate. They’ll find the body, what are we going to do about that?” Detective Sergeant Demi glared impassively at Sophie for a moment, as if waiting to see if she had any further questions. “The police will probably be here soon.” She replied at last, “I think we should co-operate, and tell them what we saw, in terms of the murder of this unfortunate officer. I think it would be best, though, to omit any mention of where we came from. Stories about time traveling police officers from the past are not going to be easily believed, and would be almost impossible to prove. But as long as we can give a thorough description of Roberts, they should be able to track him down themselves, stop him from causing any more damage. As for getting back, that may take longer. If we look into the anomaly that brought us here, do some research to find out if it is something that has happened before; we may be able to determine if a similar event could take us back. I’m aware that that is a bit of a long shot. However, we have a more reliable, if slightly more long term, back-up option. You are aware, I am sure, of the incidents involving the visits our world has had from the Timelord known as the Doctor, a few years ago?” “Of course I am!” Sophie replied indignantly, leaving out the fact that she herself had met the Doctor on his last visit. “Well that is now a just a few years into the future.” Demi explained, “In three years from now, the Doctor will arrive on Kashmir in search of the Dagger of Time. Should we fail to find a way back by then, we shall have to make ourselves known to the Doctor at that point, explain our predicament and request transit back to our own time.” “Three years?” Sophie repeated, in an incredulous tone, “What are we supposed to do for three years stuck in the past? I can’t just go home, I know for a fact that I didn’t have an older version of myself living with me when I was little, I’d definitely have remembered that. We’d need to find somewhere to live, get jobs, we’d need whole new identities…” “That’s enough, constable,” The Detective sergeant interrupted, “getting worked up isn’t going to get us anywhere.” “I’m sorry, sergeant,” Sophie said, looking reproachful, “I didn’t mean to speak out of turn.” “Not at all,” Demi said, her face softening, “In fact, really, when you think about it, while we are outwith of our own time period I have no real authority over you, I should not be giving you instructions, that was wrong of me” “If we’re going to get home again,” Sophie said, “and if we’re going to survive our time in the past, then we’ll have to work together. If not as Sergeant and constable then perhaps as friends?” she extended an arm to the android, giving her a warm smile, “Hello, my name is Sophie.” She said cheerily. “Demi.” The Detective Sergeant said, shaking Sophie’s hand, “Nice to meet you.” “I’d assumed Demi was your surname.” Sophie said pensively. “It is my only name.” Demi told her, slightly bemused. “Well, it’s a very nice name.” Sophie smiled. “Thank you.” Demi replied, before looking out into the streets far below them. “Now I wonder how long the police will take to show up…”

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As it transpired, it did not take very long at all for the police to arrive. For Sophie, being on the receiving end of law enforcement came as something of a surreal experience. Growing up, she had known several of her classmates who had been arrested for various minor misdemeanours, but she had always kept her behaviour inside the law; knowing as she did from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career with the police, she had not wanted to do anything that would harm her chances of getting accepted onto the force. Procedurally, the process was not quite as it was in her own time; once the police got there, very little dialogue was exchanged. Sophie and Demi were patted down to check for any concealed weapons – both had been carrying standard issue stun blasters which were both confiscated, much to Sophie’s increasing concern as to how this might affect the course of history. After this, the two were wordlessly marched down the stairs, noticing on the way that the office building was at this point fully occupied and in use. After a long trek to the ground floor, they were bundled into a police cruiser, the body of the dead constable being bagged and stowed into the back of a second, slightly larger vehicle. “I’m going to have to refer this straight to the top, ladies.” The arresting officer informed them, with an unpleasant grin, “Found at the scene of the crime with a dead officer and murder weapon, one of you covered in blood, doesn’t look too good, does it? The boss is going to want to talk to you.” The journey to the KPPF headquarters commenced, the passengers of the cruiser sitting in an uncomfortable silence for quite some time. Eventually, Sophie asked Demi, in a hushed whisper, “I don’t suppose it’s going to be Commander Bryden he’s taking us to see?” she asked, not feeling too optimistic. “No,” Demi confirmed, “At this point in history Donal Bryden was not working on the police force at all. He was dishonourably discharged after being blamed for a large scandal: that would have been about a year ago. He will not be seen in public again for another three years.” Sophie sighed and rolled her eyes at this, “why is it,” she said exasperatedly, “that everyone who might be able to help us is three years out of our reach?” “It is worse than you might think,” Demi added, “We are in Katar Dolabra’s tenure as commander, which means it will be him interviewing us. I never met him while he was still alive, he died not long after I joined the force, but if his reputation is anything to go by we are not in for a good time at all.

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It was the second time in less than a week that Sophie had been in the office of the Commander to the KPPF, at least from her point of view. The trip to get there had been quite an arduous one, as they had been split up into separate rooms for well over an hour while they were scanned more thoroughly for concealed weapons, had their photographs and fingerprints taken and generally been shouted at to follow every instruction given to them until, at last, they had been frogmarched up to the top floor corridor where they were reunited for a moment before being sent in to Commander Dolabra’s office. It was, at least in terms of its physical position relative to the rest of the KPPF Headquarters, the same room Sophie had been in for her meeting with Commander Bryden a few days ago, but Bryden’s office and the room she found herself in now could not have been more different. Bryden’s office had felt spacious and bright, the layout being open and comfortable with a large sofa taking up much of the back wall. This room was painted the same colour, and even had the same desk, but somehow it felt cramped and claustrophobic, the desk sitting in the exact centre of the room, partitioning it into two halves, one behind the desk and one in front. With the wall by the door being lined with imposing grey filing cabinets, this left only a narrow strip of floor space for anyone to sit while being addressed. Sophie noticed that the only seats available were three of the same uncomfortable plastic chair she had chosen before, now sat in a neat row, even more like a headmaster’s office than it had seemed when the idea had first hit her. Apart from the confined feel the layout lent it, the room was also much darker, with old-looking black venetian blinds closed over all the windows behind the desk, only allowing a small slit of light here or there where the blinds were bent out of shape. Between these windows and the desk sat the imposing form of Katar Dolabra. By all accounts he should have been less imposing than his successor, Dolabra was shorter than Bryden by quite a bit, and was rather stout in shape. In spite of this, a combination of the oppressive layout of the room and the large throne-like chair that Dolabra sat in on the other side of the desk, afforded him an image of absolute authority. Demi seemed unfazed by Dolabra’s steely gaze, but Sophie was beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable, and found herself fiddling absent-mindedly with the yellow plastic strap of her wristwatch. After glaring at the two officers for a painfully long time, Dolabra finally addressed them. “I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that you are both looking at potentially a lot of trouble here.” He said gruffly, without any indication that he wanted a reply, “At the moment, your presence at this crime scene has a very obvious conclusion that I could draw, and unless I am satisfied with what you have to tell me, you will find yourselves disappearing so deep into the judicial system that you’ll be drawing your pensions before you even see a trial, is that understood?” Sophie and Demi confirmed quickly and quietly that it was. “Ok, so first I want to know why you’re dressed like that,” Dolabra motioned to the police issue uniforms that the two were wearing, “I’m sure you are aware that impersonating an officer of the law is a serious offence in and of itself.” Sophie looked at her mentor hopefully, aware that they had not planned any sort of explanation for their presence or their attire. “My friend and I were at a party.” Demi responded, the lack of uncertainty that her voice naturally carried allowing this improvised lie to come across as unexpectedly believable. “They seem remarkably well made for fancy dress.” Dolabra rebuked, “That KPPF uniform… if I saw that amongst the ones the communications girls wear I wouldn’t be able to pick it out. And there are no women in the Velhadrogahn police, but your uniform looks of the same design. Where did you get them?” “Police surplus is easy enough to buy if you know where to look.” Demi replied, not missing a beat, “I fancied a little local colour so I dyed mine blue, my friend here isn’t quite so gifted at altering clothes so she had to leave hers as it was. I do feel that if you are going to go to a fancy dress party it is worth putting some effort in to the costume, I like to make an impression.” “Well you’ve certainly managed that.” Dolabra replied gruffly, “So with that triviality aside, would you mind telling me what exactly you were doing up on that rooftop?” Sophie, a little more at ease now that Demi had set the ball rolling, and feeling creative ventured a response “It was quite a wild party.” She said, “I don’t think I remember much of the second half, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the other guests weren’t strewn around other strange places in Velhadrogahn.” “So you’re saying that you somehow managed to find your way to the top of the building in the early hours of this morning, in some state of confusion following this party. I could accept that, although the fact that you were found without any handbags, money, coats or other useful things young ladies such as yourselves might want to take with you to a party is still more than a little suspicious. What I want to know is what happened once you were there that led to one of my officers being fatally stabbed.” “Well, sir, that ties in to why we don’t have our bags with us anymore,” Sophie answered, on a roll now, “there was a man who followed us there, and he mugged us. He had a knife with him, and the police officer came out onto the rooftop just after he had taken our things. I imagine he would have arrested the man, only he attacked him first, um, the officer that is…” Sophie trailed off, as she realised her pronouns were making the story rather unclear. Demi gave her a withering glance, suggesting that this was not the story she would have gone with, then picked up the tale “What my friend is trying so inarticulately to say,” she cut in, “is that our mugger stabbed your officer then left with our belongings. As you can see, I was injured by him myself in the process.” She motioned a hand to the area of her uniform that the knife had perforated, “I should perhaps add that we had not called for assistance from the police, so I would imagine that he was there on some other business?” Dolabra looked uncomfortable at the mention of this, and shuffled the unruly papers on his desk in a flustered manner. “Listen here, we find a dead officer on a rooftop with you two, you took the knife out of the body, and we know that was you, your fingerprints are all over it… For that matter, yours are the only fingerprints on it.” “”He was wearing gloves!” Sophie responded defensively. “Of course he was…” Dolabra scowled. “And you needed to take the knife out because…” “I had to run a few… repairs after the mugger stabbed me.” Demi admitted. “Oh great, you’re a bloody replicant.” Dolabra sighed, the slur causing Demi to wince slightly. “I just want you to know that I am really not happy about any of this. We have no other suspect, but on the condition that you keep the events of today to yourself, and I will expect you to sign non-disclosure agreements to that effect, I am willing to let you go.” “Really?” Demi was surprised at this sudden turn. Dolabra sighed. “Constable Brakosniev was on that rooftop investigating an explosion reported earlier this morning, one which we had expressly instructed him to not follow up.” Seeing the next question forming in the girls’ minds he quickly added, “The Velhadrogahn independence resistance movement have been causing similar expressions of unrest for a while, my police department have already come to an… agreement with them, which means if they blow something up we leave them to it.” Sophie was aghast at this, but more surprised to see that her mentor’s expression remained passive. “So we keep quiet and you can pretend there was no police investigation into the explosion, your agreement stays intact.” The android said dryly. “Precisely.” Dolabra agreed, “And constable Brakosniev gets a quiet posthumous dishonourable discharge. It all works out for the best really, it saves having to pay out his pension to his wife. All in all the day has gone slightly in our favour.” “But that’s horrible!” Sophie exclaimed. “That, young lady,” Dolabra replied, his voice raising, “is the way of this world, as you will no doubt know should you ever get to be old enough to see a little of it outside of your warm happy little bubble.” “And what about the man who killed your constable?” Sophie asked, trying not to let the remark about her age get to her, “What’s going to happen to him, he’s a dangerous criminal, you can’t just leave him out there, who knows what he’ll do?” “He was dangerous enough to overcome a teenage girl and a robot; I don’t think that translates into a broader danger to the public.” “You don’t understand, he’s got to be stopped, he’s already got the underground eating out of the palm of his hand…” “That is quite enough of that!” Dolabra barked, “I will not be told how to do my job by you or anyone else. Get out of my office before I throw you out, and take your android with you! I have Brakosniev’s widow outside, so I need to get her in, I haven’t the time or patience to spend all day listening to this rubbish. I suggest you spend a little less time out of your head at parties and get back to school, you clearly still have a lot to learn about the world!” by this point, Demi had risen and was trying to lead Sophie out of the room before she made any more trouble for them than they were already in, “Buck Roberts!” Sophie shouted as she was dragged out the door. “I’ve never heard of him.” Dolabra called after her. Sophie managed to push her head and shoulders back through the doorway one final time “You will.” She warned. “Big red scar across his face, you can’t miss him. And if he comes for you first you’ll wish you’d listened to me.” Demi finally managed to pull Sophie into the hallway, and the door slammed shut behind them.

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“I don’t look that young.” Sophie muttered to herself. She and Demi had been left sitting down the corridor from Dolabra’s office, having been instructed to do so by an officer who had come to investigate the commotion they had caused on their way out. From the office down the hall, they could hear the anguished cries of Constable Brakosniev’s newly widowed wife as Dolabra delivered the bad news, presumably in a manner that was anything but gentle. Demi turned to Sophie with a frown on her face, “You do look that young.” She observed, “You are that young, what was all that about? He was letting us go and you started kicking off, we were lucky he did not change his mind and have us arrested. I know about Dolabra from his records, just because he is not charging us with Brakosniev’s death doesn’t mean he would not find some other trumped up charges to pin on us.” “I thought we wanted Robert’s captured.” Sophie said, her voice filled with the exasperation that had built up in her since they had been arrested. She pulled up her feet onto the seat of the plastic bench and tucked her chin into the dip between her knees. “I thought that was the whole point.” She sighed, “If we leave Roberts running around the past then he’s going to do something crazy and break history. In fact once he realises he’s in the past he’ll probably make an effort to deliberately mess with history. From what I saw of him today, that’s exactly what he would do.” “I understand your frustration, Sophie,” Demi said, her voice now taking on a soothing tone, “believe me, I do, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, and shouting at the head of the planetary police force is not going to persuade him to make any effort to arrest anyone.” “You think I was being childish too, don’t you?” Sophie’s hear dipped lower, allowing her hair to cascade over her face, hiding it from view. “Not as such.” Demi replied, “But I think you need to look at this situation objectively, imagine anyone you’ve ever arrested speaking to Commander Bryden like that.” This got a small, half-hearted chuckle from Sophie, who looked back up at her mentor through watery red rimmed eyes. “What are we going to do?” she asked. Demi considered this for a moment, “For the time being, we are going to have to wait here.” She concluded, “Until such a time as the KPPF decide to send us back down to the planet’s surface. After that I would suggest making all possible effort towards finding a way home. I am aware that you feel strongly that we should try and apprehend Roberts by ourselves but the fact of the matter is we have no authority here. Our priority must be getting home. The wails from the office down the passage had now subsided to a softer sobbing, which somehow was even more heart-wrenching to listen to. “Poor woman,” Sophie said softly, “It puts our problems into perspective a bit, we’re stranded somewhere, but she’s just lost a huge part of her life. It makes you think.” Demi simply nodded in response.

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Several hours later, the two of them were still stuck waiting in the corridor. Mrs Brakosniev had, by this point, been turned out into the corridor herself, to await transport back to her home. Sophie and Demi had been assured that they could leave on the same vehicle, provided they got off at the same place. In the mean-time, they found themselves consoling the young widow, who as they had suspected, had been given the bad news from the Commander in an entirely unsympathetic way. The young woman, Svetlana - as they eventually managed to learn her first name was, was no older than Sophie, and this made her situation all the more tragic to her. “Dmitri had so very big plans,” Svetlana explained, her English slightly broken and heavily accented with what would have been a Slavic accent, were she on earth, “he would work hard, maybe get promotion early on, we hoped to get good position, he was a good man.” She told them. “We thought maybe when his wage was higher we could start a family, we had dreams to move to the mountains, maybe Aveigh Mor or Kharngorn. Police jobs in that area are not so many, but it is a much nicer place for raising childrens.” Svetlana sighed, seeing this potential future of her idyllic family life evaporate in front of her. “I will have to leave my home soon,” she informed them, “Mr Dolabra has explained that Dmitri has been… posthumously dismissed. Our apartment was leased from his work so I am no longer allowed to live there.” “That’s appalling!” Sophie exclaimed. “Perhaps it is not so bad.” Svetlana replied, “Maybe I will go after all to live in the mountains, find new life there. There is not much here for me anymore.” At this, she began to sob again, and Sophie put an arm around her shoulder to comfort her. After quite some time, the sobbing subsided once more, and Svetlana looked up at Sophie and Demi as if seeing them for the first time. “I am sorry, I have not yet asked who you are,” she said, “do you work here also? Perhaps you knew Dmitri?” “Oh, no, we’re not actually police officers,” Demi interjected quickly, for Svetlana’s sake omitting to mention their brief encounter with her husband, “These are costumes for a party.” “Hey, that’s a thought…” Sophie said suddenly, “we don’t have anything else with us to wear, if we’re going to be stuck here for a long time we can’t just go about dressed like police the whole time.” “Oh, do not worry about this!” Svetlana said, “I have many clothes at my home, I can give you some when we are there if you like!” “That’s very thoughtful of you.” Sophie said. With their new companion seemingly cheered up by this opportunity to make herself useful, they waited a while longer in silence for their transport to arrive.

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The sun was well on its way back towards the horizon by the time the police cruiser dropped Sophie, Demi and Svetlana off at the latter’s apartment building, and dusk was setting in rapidly. Sophie could scarcely believe that she had spent the entire day being either en-route to, at or coming back from the police headquarters. She wondered if this was what it must be like as a criminal, finding whole days being swallowed up in detention. Svetlana let them in, and it was quickly agreed that the two should remain at her flat for the remainder of the night. Svetlana did not want to turn her new friends out into the street with no-where else to go, and Sophie and Demi both agreed that after such a big shock, with no apparent family members to turn to, Svetlana should probably not be on her own. They busied themselves helping their host make up the spare room, Demi conceding to sleep on the floor, as she reasoned Sophie would probably have more need of the one bed in the room. Demi’s own recharge cycle, although visually like sleep through personal choice, and generally timed to coincide with acceptable sleeping hours, did not actually require the physical comfort of a proper bed. For that reason, she quite happily made up a bed for herself on the floor by the window. Svetlana had seemed somewhat preoccupied with the idea that she should begin packing straight away to vacate her flat as soon as possible, but Sophie and Demi had quite firmly stopped her, as she seemed to be upsetting herself with her frantic bustling. After Sophie had made her a cup of peppermint tea, Svetlana brought a large plastic tote bag full of various items of clothing for her two guests including, Sophie was glad to see, a variety of assorted clean undergarments. Sophie was not in the way of wearing a stranger’s clothes, but given the circumstances was quite happy to pick out some sleepwear and a change of clothes for the next day, having rummaged through the selection until she had found something that best suited her personal sense of style. Demi, seemingly less fussed by aesthetics, had pulled hers from the bag at random before going to her makeshift bed. Sophie climbed into her bed and switched off the lamp. Lying in bed, with the warmth of the darkness closing around her in the pleasant embrace of sleep, she could scarcely believe that three nights previously she had been in her old bed at her family home in Vystral Paard, in her own time. This led her mind to wander to thoughts of what the other her, the her from this time, would be doing. Even with the slight time difference, she realised, the chances were that she was in that same bed right now. Finding this idea oddly comforting, Sophie drifted off to sleep.

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The daylight spilling through the thin curtains woke Sophie up early the next morning. Demi still appeared to be asleep, the daylight not disturbing her, so Sophie decided to get washed and dressed before waking her. Having folded her borrowed pyjamas under the pillow, more from habit than for any real purpose, Sophie went through to the small en-suite bathroom to get herself cleaned and brush her teeth and hair, but found when she came out that her mentor had managed to get up and dressed in that short time. Feeling that this made her own morning routine seem rather slow and inefficient by comparison, and feeling more than a little underdressed, Sophie quickly pulled on the leggings and top that she had received from Svetlana the night before. Once the two were fully dressed, they headed through to the kitchen, only to find Svetlana was up and about, and clearly had been for quite some time, having set out a breakfast that was really quite a bit more than the three of them would have needed. Before either of them had the chance to ask how she was doing, however, she produced an ivory coloured envelope from the countertop behind her. “This came through the post this morning.” She announced, “It is addressed for both of you.” She passed it over to them without further comment. Demi took the envelope and stared at it as if she couldn’t quite understand what it was. “That’s not possible.” She said, her voice carrying a strange tinge of uncertainty that Sophie had not heard before, “No-one could possibly know we would be here, how can we have a letter?” “The police know we’re here.” Sophie pointed out, “Perhaps it’s from Dolabra, he might want us to come in again.” Demi shook her head, “No,” she argued, “if Dolabra wanted us back in at the station he would send a car round to arrest us, probably in the night while we were asleep, he certainly would not write us a letter. We have not been here long enough for a letter to get to us.” “It’s certainly weird.” Sophie agreed, “But there’s only one way to find out what’s going on, and that’s to open it up and see what’s inside.” Demi gave a curt nod, and sliced the top of the envelope open with one finger, as precisely as if she’d cut it open with a knife. The letter inside was the same marbled ivory colour as the envelope. Demi read the message aloud; “Detective Sergeant Demi and Constable Sophie Bausch, I am aware that this letter may have caused you some confusion, but I write to tell you that I wish to help with your current predicament. There is only so much I can safely include in a letter, knowing the issues your postal service has in this time period, but suffice to say I have the answers you are looking for. If you could meet me at 5pm at the Bosworth Diner in Vystral Paard I will explain all.” “Vystral Paard?” Sophie repeated, “but that’s got to be at least a thousand miles from here, where are we right now? Somewhere near Newtown Unthank?” “My apartment is just on the outskirts of Newtown Unthank.” Svetlana ventured helpfully.” “Vystral Paard is one thousand, six hundred and twenty two miles from our current location.” Demi informed her. “How are we supposed to get to Vystral Paard, then?” Sophie asked, frustrated at this influx of useless information. “If you let me finish, Sophie, there is more.” Demi said levelly, “P.S, You’re no doubt wondering at this point how you are going to get to Vystral Paard, to that end I have enclosed two tickets for the 11am turboshuttle, that should give you plenty of time to finish your breakfast and get to the bus station.” Sure enough, Demi tipped the envelope upside down, and two yellow tickets fell onto the floor. “What I do not understand is why it needs to be Vystral Paard, not somewhere nearer our current location. What is so special about that diner?” “I used to work there.” Sophie said, “I don’t know if that’s relevant, but I had a weekend job there when I was in school. Who sent the letter? Maybe they knew that.” “It does not say.” Demi replied, passing the letter to Sophie to read for herself, “It just says ‘a friend’” Sophie skimmed her eyes across the text, not sure exactly what she was looking for, but sure she should be looking for something. Not finding anything to satisfy this intangible itch at the back of her mind, she passed the letter back to Demi and glanced at her watch, before realising that she had not reset the time since arriving in the past. Between the jump from present-day afternoon to early morning in the past, and then crossing several time zones going to and from the Police headquarters, her watch – which was usually incredibly reliable at keeping track of changing locations and daylight savings – had given up, and was now displaying a row of zeros. Checking the clock on Svetlana’s cooker for reference, she managed to fiddle with the little yellow buttons on the side enough to get it showing approximately the correct time. “So we’ve got over two hours until the turboshuttle leaves,” she said at last, “I doubt it’ll take us all that long to get to the station, I think we should have some of this lovely breakfast that Svetlana’s put together for us, it’s going to be a long journey, even by turboshuttle, I don’t know about you, but I like to have a good meal before I travel.” She turned to Svetlana with a friendly smile, “Would you like some tea, Svetlana?”

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Several hours later, Sophie and Demi were sitting on the Turboshuttle, well on their way down the road. Sophie had felt a pang of guilt about leaving Svetlana on her own, and had promised that they would come back and see her again as soon as they could, something which prompted a frown from Demi. Svetlana had reassured her that she would be packing up with a view to leave in the next few days, but Sophie wasn’t entirely happy that a sudden move so soon after losing her husband would be good for Svetlana’s well-being. There was little time by then to argue the point, so Sophie made a mental note to return as soon as the meeting with their unknown contact was over. Demi seemed rather uncommunicative on the lengthy journey, so Sophie spent most of it gazing out of the window watching the world as it was when she was a child fly past. She personally liked to listen to music on a long road trip, but her music player was still in her room in Velhadrogahn, in the future. She realised with an amused smile that even the most basic music players like hers would not be available for another year. Remembering wistfully the cassette player she had listened to music on back when she’d been 9, Sophie found herself being drawn back into the world as she remembered it from her childhood, as the shuttle drew in to the Tri-city ring road, and along the final stretch towards Vystral Paard.

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Stepping out into her hometown, Sophie found herself experiencing a sense of familiarity that was, in and of itself, familiar. When she had been younger, there had been a large and fast-growing tree that had seeded itself outside her house. Her mother had not wanted to do anything about it at first, but between two of her father’s business trips it had doubled in size to take up almost all of their small front garden. Her father had removed it before his next assignment, and the space where it had been was tidied up so that no trace of the tree was left. While the tree had been there, however, the family had had a photo taken of them outside the house, with the tree in the background. The picture had remained on the hallway ever since. The thing was, even though the tree had only been there very briefly, every time Sophie saw the photo it felt as if the tree were still there, and had always been there. This was the same sensation that she got seeing the city centre, as they left the bus station. Several shops had come and gone in the past nine years, many buildings had been demolished, built, redressed, but the high street as she saw it now felt so familiar that it was like it had never changed. After stopping to stare wistfully at a toyshop that had been her favourite place in town to visit until it had closed when she was eleven, Sophie became aware that Demi, entirely unfazed by the sights around her, had continued on without her and was now several yards down the road, leaving Sophie running to catch up.

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Sophie hadn’t set foot in the Bosworth Diner since the time the Daleks had invaded, an incident that she had found herself thrust into the middle of after saving the Doctor from a taxi that was being flooded with toxic gas. That had been three years ago, or alternatively was six years into the future. Unlike the rest of the city, the diner was exactly the same as the last time she had last seen it, the building and signage looking grimy, greasy and extremely neglected. Pushing open the glass door, Sophie scanned the room to see if any faces seemed familiar to her. The diner was busier that afternoon than it usually had been during her time as a waitress, but she didn’t recognise any of the patrons. As she glanced across the crowd, however, an old man sitting near the door looked up at her from his menu, and nodded towards the two empty seats at his table. Without any words between them, Sophie and Demi sat down at the man’s table. Even though Sophie could have sworn she’d never seen this man before, there was at the same time a strange sensation of familiarity about him, not unlike the feeling the city had given her on her way over. The man had a craggy, weathered face, partially obscured by a ragged grey beard. He must have been at least seventy, but the tiredness of his eyes suggested a far longer life, one with many hardships. At a guess, Sophie would have said the man was a soldier of some sort, or perhaps a bounty hunter, his leather gators and bandolier giving a militaristic edge to his attire, which also included a worn velvet waistcoat and a leather jacket which seemed almost as weathered as his face. The stranger gave Sophie and Demi a smile of recognition as they sat down. “Detective Sergeant Demi, Constable Bausch, I’m glad you could join me at such short notice.” He announced in a voice as warm as his smile. “I’ll admit that bus timetables are not something I have a great deal of experience in. Would either of you care for a bite to eat?” “No thank you.” Sophie replied shaking her head, “I used to work here, I’ve seen the kitchen.” “Ah.” The stranger mused, “I suppose I should have thought of that. I was rather over concerned with choosing somewhere that would make the flashiest gesture, kitchen hygiene wasn’t really something I considered.” “Look, sir,” Demi interrupted, “we could exchange pleasantries all evening, but my colleague and I are in a very taxing predicament, so if you have any information that could help us, we would be happy to hear that, otherwise we have other things that we would be better off attending to.” “Alright.” The man conceded, “Where would you like me to begin?” “How did you know where we were?” Sophie asked, before Demi could say anything, “Even we didn’t know we would be there until we got there.” The stranger laughed heartily at this, “I am fortunate enough to have a little more insight than most, at least in concerns to your current situation.” He explained, “I had been studying a time anomaly which had existed at least in potential, for quite some time. A few years ago, from your point of view at least, there was a large temporal convergence on this planet, an incident where multiple possible timelines coexisted, for a very short time. That sort of thing can leave a stress in the time-space continuum, and from what I can gather that stress has splintered to form the time anomaly that brought the two of you here, though what caused that to happen I don’t know” “But how did you know we were going to be brought here?” Demi interjected, “that letter had to have been sent before we got here.” The stranger nodded in agreement, “It was,” he replied, “my equipment is very effective, so I had advance knowledge of your arrival. The problem is, I can’t directly intervene. Otherwise I could have waited for you on the rooftop and sent you straight home again. Time has been damaged; the entire future you know is dangling on a thread. Any paradoxes could cause that thread to break, and unravel time itself. And I have it on good authority that that would be very bad.” “So what do we do?” Sophie asked, “I mean can we get back, is that even possible?” at this question, the stranger fished a pen from his pocket and started drawing on a paper napkin. “Imagine that this circle is… well, everything, our localised little ball of time and space.” He said, drawing a circle, before adding a line from end to end. “Now this is the anomaly that brought you here, you started at the top in what you call the present, then moved down to the bottom, nine years into the past. But the anomaly isn’t a line, in a 3 dimensional space it would be more of an inverted cone.” The man drew a second line through the circle, forming a narrow cross with the first. “Everything inside the two smaller triangles is contained within the anomaly, but it is only the points at which the anomaly touches reality – that’s the circle here – that you can gain passage through it. So if you imagine this shape in three dimensions, and then I suppose imagine it in five dimensions, you sort of have an approximation of the time-space anomaly. Are you following me so far?” Sophie was staring at him blankly “This is more the sort of thing my sister would understand; she’s really good at physics and stuff…” she said. Demi looked thoughtful. “I do not understand the underlying theory,” she admitted, “but I think I follow the implications, if we travelled here along one edge of the anomaly, does that mean we can travel back along the other edge?” she asked, looking at him inquiringly. The old man responded with a grim smile. “Yes, I rather thought you would get to that point. The answer is yes, from the spread of the time disruption, it is possible to calculate the angle of the cone and from the length of displacement, which we know, we can work out the size of the area the anomaly is contained within, and as such work out the point where the other side breaks through. As you can see from my drawing it’s up a little and slightly to the left… in time and space.” “Well, sir,” Demi replied, “in that case I respectfully ask that you tell us where and when exactly this intersection will be.” The stranger sighed at this, looking almost disappointed. “It’s not so much a matter of where and when, you’re still seeing this in two dimensions. The intersection of the anomaly with reality is more of a four-dimensional ring circling an area of the planet across various points in time. If my calculations are correct, then the rooftop in Velhadrogahn is the focal point, you came from there and to there. So any other point along the intersect would lead back to that rooftop. The radial span is seven days, so I would suggest going to the rooftop then.” “Unacceptable.” Demi stated, “That is over five days away, and the police will be on high alert, there’s no way we’ll be allowed back up there. Where is the nearest point where we can access the anomaly?” The stranger sighed again “It will cross over with our current reality in just under twelve hours, at the top of the Chrarevel Plaza.” He replied, “But I’m afraid that that simply doesn’t give you enough time.” “But that’s in Vystral Paard.” Sophie countered, “I’ve been there before, it’s only an hour’s walk from here.” The old man nodded solemnly, “It doesn’t leave you with enough time,” he repeated, “to find the other member of your party and bring him back with you.” “The other member?” Demi probed, “Oh, you mean Roberts. Yes, Sophie has brought this up already, but as I told her then, our priority is to return home. We have no authority to arrest anyone here, so the arrest of Roberts will have to be left in the hands of the contemporary police force. Given his behaviour up until this point, I cannot see it being very long until he becomes a wanted man in this time zone.” “I really must insist that you reconsider.” The stranger said, sounding pained, “Your fugitive has already killed once, who knows what damage he could cause to the timelines if he is left unchecked.” Demi rose to her feet. “If you are so concerned with what Mr Roberts does, then I would suggest you liaise with the police and try and apprehend him yourself.” She answered tersely, “I am grateful for your assistance, and should you still be alive nine years from now I would be happy to see that the police department reimburse you for your efforts. Come on, Sophie, we are leaving.” And with that she turned on her heel and left the diner. Sophie got up and gave the elderly gentleman an apologetic look. He leaned over towards her. “Before you go” he said, “you might want to take these with you. First rule of time travel – don’t leave anachronistic technology behind” he passed a canvas bag to Sophie, in which she found both her and Demi’s stun blasters, radios and transport disks. “How did you get these?” she asked in bewilderment, “The police confiscated all this stuff when they arrested us. “I have my methods.” The old man smiled conspiratorially, “You’ll find they won’t work until you are back in your own time, the resonant frequencies they operate on are out of phase with the current reality.” “Is that why my watch isn’t working properly?” Sophie asked. The stranger nodded, “It’s just as well our friend Demi is entirely self-sufficient, or she would have been rendered inoperable too. Oh, and one final thing.” He added in a lower voice, “I know it will be tempting to you, but I must ask that you avoid interacting with anyone from your own past while you’re here. Let’s not have any more paradoxes than we already have.” Sophie nodded and smiled. “Thank you for helping us.” She said sincerely, “I don’t think I could have managed to stay here forever, making a life for myself in the past.” The old man nodded. “The past is another country.” He mused. “It’s nice enough to visit, but you wouldn’t really want to live there.” His face became solemn once more. “Goodbye for now, constable, let us hope for both our sakes that we do not need to meet again.” Sophie nodded silently and made her way out of the busy diner.

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Sophie found her mentor waiting for her outside, looking as irate as Sophie had ever seen her. “What was that all about?” the android enquired, “I thought we were leaving and you two were still chatting away.” “He wanted to give me this,” Sophie threw the canvas bag at her Demi, feeling exasperated with her attitude, “and he was telling me not to try and meet my younger self. Which is very good advice, like all that stuff you decided to ignore.” “I did not ignore it,” Demi argued, “Our priority from the start has been to return home. Now a means to return home has presented itself and intend to take it.” “We still have twelve hours.” Sophie said glumly, “We could use that time, to…” she trailed off “Use it to what?” Demi probed, “Find Roberts? We last saw him thirty-six hours ago, he could have travelled anywhere in that time. Our chances of finding him and getting to him with no resources at our disposal, in twelve hours are less than point zero zero nine.” “At least we’d be trying!” Sophie countered, her voice rising in frustration, “What about Svetlana? We brought that man here, he killed her husband. She let us in to her home, we ate her food, we slept in her house, we’re wearing her clothes right now! Now you want to just leave her, and leave her husband’s murderer running loose? She took us in and now we’re literally stealing her pants!” Sophie pulled the pink lace material of her borrowed underwear out over the waistband of her leggings as if to emphasise her point. Now having exhausted all her energy in the argument, she leaned against the wall and slid down until she was sitting on the pavement. Demi silently sat down beside her. For a few minutes neither of them spoke. “You know, I doubt she was really expecting you to give her her pants back when she lent them to you.” Demi said, in a more conversational tone. “I understand how you feel, but there’s nothing more we can do for her. In all probability she’d have moved away before we could have gone back for her. All we can do now is go to the Chrarevel Plaza and wait for the anomaly to take us back home. In fact…” she rose to her feet and held out a hand to help Sophie up, “I would suggest going straight there, we would be better to be early in case our friend’s calculations were a little off.” Sophie looked back through the window of the diner to the table where they had met the enigmatic stranger, but there was no sign of him. This was curious, as they had been near the door this whole time and he had not came out past them. Brushing this mystery off, Sophie followed her mentor into the city centre once more, as they made their way to the plaza.

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Sophie awoke on a cold granite floor, her neck and shoulder sore and her hair damp and bedraggled. She sat up to see Demi a few metres away, stood next to a fountain and gazing out over the city. “How long have I been asleep?” She asked, rubbing her neck with some discomfort. “About six hours.” Demi replied. “I thought in the circumstances it was best to leave you to it, I do not need to recharge for a while yet.” They had reached the plaza around seven the night before and made their way to the top as fast as the painfully steep steps would allow. Chrarevel Plaza was a large towering octagonal stone structure, with a small paved square and fountain at the top. It was reputedly older than the whole city, and was constructed from one single enormous block of stone. People didn’t come up to the top very often, so they had been left in peace for quite some time, allowing Sophie to nod off for a while. She was greatly regretting this now, however, as a smooth stone floor with no pillow, downwind of a fountain, was easily the most uncomfortable place she could think of for a sleep. Stretching the worst of the pain out, she looked at her watch, which seemed to be working reasonably well since she had reset it the morning before. It was four in the morning, although the sun was up high enough to light up the whole city in front of her. “Just an hour to go, then.” She noted glumly. “I suppose it’s for the best really, we had nowhere to live, no money, we couldn’t have lived like this for very long.” The world felt sufficiently deserted for Sophie to peel off her sodden t-shirt and wring the worst of the water out of it before putting it back on. She noticed that it was the same colour as her watch, but could no longer remember if that had been intentional or not. The sensation of the passage of time had felt very strange, ever since she had arrived in the past. Sophie had always felt that time had passed faster as she had gotten older, but that had always just been one of those things everyone said, it was a psychological thing, the longer you have been alive the shorter any given period of time will seem by comparison. But just for a moment, lost in the past and standing above the city she had grown up in, at a time when she was still growing up, Sophie could quite easily believe that time did pass slower in the past. “I suppose we’ll have to start getting used to being Detective Sergeant and Constable again.” Sophie ruminated. “Yes,” Demi nodded, “once we are back in our own time again, we shall have to resume our professional working relationship, Constable; I suggest that we do so from this point onwards.” Sophie did her best not to look too crestfallen. She had rather enjoyed being on first name terms with her mentor, it has made their predicament easier imagining they were working through it as friends instead of as boss and underling. Suddenly, Sophie felt an odd sensation, like the hair on the back of her neck was fighting through its damp and heavy condition to stand on end. She sniffed, and smelled the same peculiar smell that she had noticed on the rooftop before they had been sent back in time. “Sergeant, I think the anomaly is going to break through soon.” She announced. The Detective Sergeant nodded, “You’re right, I am experiencing a similar high static charge to the one I detected at the time of our initial transference.” Sophie looked around her expectantly. “Do we need to do anything?” she asked. “Last time the anomaly arced to the knife you were holding.” Demi replied, “Perhaps we need something metal to focus it.” She pulled a metal fork from the pocket of her jeans. “Where did you get that?” Sophie asked, “Did you take that from Svetlana’s kitchen?” Demi did not reply, looking sheepishly at the ground. “You did, didn’t you, you stole her fork! Why would you do that?” “I thought it might come in handy later on, and I think I am about to be proved right.” Demi replied levelly, “Besides, I doubt she’ll miss it.” And without further discussion, she threw the fork into the air, where it warped out of shape and burst into light, drawing out an oval shaped hole in the air in front of them. Through the swirling light beyond, Sophie thought she could almost see the rooftop in Velhadrogahn. Just as they were stepping through, Sophie heard a voice from behind them shouting something, as she turned, she could just about see the man from the diner reach the top of the stairs, waving his arms at them with a look of great concern on his face, before the world turned itself inside out once again and Sophie was plunged into darkness.

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TO BE CONTINUED
Do you know who I miss? That guy with the potatoes, let's bring him back...

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DukeNukem 2417
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Re: The Second Time Around *PART TWO ADDED 19/11/17*

Postby DukeNukem 2417 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:08 pm

Another intriguing installment---as always, I look forward to more! 8-)

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bad geminton
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Re: The Second Time Around *PART THREE ADDED 28/11/17*

Postby bad geminton » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:18 am

Chapter Three: The only constant is change

For the second time in less than a week, Sophie found herself coming to on the rooftop of the Velhadrogahn office building. The numbness that she had experienced in her right arm after the previous jump through time had been substituted for a general sensation of mild discomfort all over. Looking over to where Demi stood, she could see that her mentor was already fully cognisant, and scanning the surrounding rooftop area with an intense scrutiny. “Our friend was right about one thing at least.” The android announced, apparently aware that Sophie had regained consciousness without having turned to look at her first, “The time anomaly has brought us back to a point in time that is, at least approximately, that from which we left. The level of weathering on the rooftop is far more consistent with the condition it was in when we left.” Demi reached into the bag that the stranger had given to Sophie, and pulled out a radio. “These should work fine now that we’re back,” she announced, “Provided they haven’t been tampered with.” Sophie stood up and surveyed the surrounding scenery for the first time. As she looked out across the city, a strange sense of unease began to creep over her, one which she could not quite define. “So how did we end up back in Velhadrogahn?” She asked, trying to push the feeling to the back of her mind, “When we came back to start with, we started and ended here, so I thought that we’d end up in Vystral Paard, since that’s where we left from.” “I’m sure the man in the diner explained that at some point.” Demi said flatly, “He seemed to know what he was talking about; it probably has something to do with the rooftop being the central focus point of the anomaly.” “He was there at the plaza just before we left.” Sophie said uneasily, “What do you think he wanted?” “You tell me,” Demi answered, giving Sophie an accusing glance, “the two of you seemed to be getting very friendly after I had left, just who was he?” “How should I know?” Sophie responded, a little more defensively than she had intended. It was true that, although she could have sworn she had never met him before, the old man had seemed oddly familiar to her. “I’d have thought you’d have run a medical scan on him or something, work out who he is that way, that’s something you can do, isn’t it?” “I only run medical scans on people if I am required to do so for professional purposes.” Demi responded. “Why?” Sophie asked, “Surely it would have been useful, since you wanted to know who he was anyway.” Demi looked at Sophie as if she was a small child asking her teacher a very obvious question. “People can find it unsettling to be around androids.” She responded at last, “I have found that it does not help matters to run bio-scans without their permission- that would be very intrusive. For example…” Demi’s eyes flashed with an inner light for a moment, “I could inform you that you are currently slightly anaemic. You should consider taking iron supplements for this.” “I already do.” Sophie mumbled, turning away. She felt sufficiently uncomfortable by this analysis to accept Demi’s point. “Oh well, I suppose we’d better radio the station, let them know we’re ok.” Sophie said, nodding to the radio in the android’s hand. Demi switched the device on and began fiddling with the tuning dial. As she did this, Sophie looked out once again at the landscape beyond them, feeling once again this creeping doubt, as if something was not quite right. “Sergeant…” she said, backing slowly towards her mentor. “What is it?” Demi asked, irritable at having been interrupted so quickly. Sophie pointed towards the mass of high rise buildings in front of them, “That big tall building, the Velhadrogahn Central Bank, we passed it on the way here… it’s gone.” The android DS looked in the direction Sophie was pointing. “A few days passed while we were in the past.” She surmised at last, “It’s entirely likely that the same amount of time has passed on this side of the anomaly, and we have arrived back a few days after we originally left. There could well have been an incident in that time that has resulted in the destruction of the Central Bank building. I shall find out the details once we get back to base.” Although Sophie did not feel entirely satisfied with this answer, she said nothing as Demi resumed her fiddling with the little radio. “Hello, Headquarters, do you read me?” She said, speaking into the device. There was a crackle and a voice came back out of the tinny speaker. “This is Velhadrogahn police station,” the voice announced, “you are using a restricted wavelength, please state your authorisation.” Demi gave Sophie a confused glance, “This is Detective Sergeant Demi,” She replied hesitantly, “Collar number seven three three two, I’m with Constable Bausch, officer nine five eight five, over.” There was a burst of static noise, as if the person on the other side was moving a lot of crumpled paper around. “We do not have a Detective Sergeant Demi or a constable Bausch on record,” he said at last, “Your officer numbers are invalid. I say again, you are using an unregistered device on a restricted wavelength, you must desist immediately or you will face charges of communicative trespass.” Demi switched the Radio off abruptly. “I don’t understand.” She said, before setting her face resolutely, “When I get back to headquarters I’m going to find out who’s operating the comms station and have him severely reprimanded.” “Can’t you see what’s happening here?” Sophie asked, frustration creeping into her voice as she realised what her subconscious had been suggesting to her since they had arrived. “We left Roberts behind. We’ve changed history! And now, somehow, we’re not police officers anymore. We’d have been better off stuck in the past, at least our present would have come around eventually. Now we’re stuck in a different world, one we don’t belong in!” “Your reasoning is sound.” Demi replied coolly, “Although you are allowing your emotions to take over. I suggest that we find someone we can trust, who is in authority, and explain our situation to them. Commander Bryden would be the obvious choice, he has a rational enough mind that he may accept what has happened and consider helping us. It’s possible that our employment is the only change to the timeline that is significant to us, in which case we could readily be re-employed, we have the necessary training after all.” “And how do you propose we get in touch with Commander Bryden?” Sophie asked, “Our radios aren’t registered, we won’t get any further than the communications room. Unless you’re planning to just beam straight into his office?” she held up her transport disk sarcastically. “I’m sure he’d let us explain why we were there before having us arrested.” “Of course not,” Demi replied, “That would be silly. We will contact him from one of the police communications stations. I suppose you have not had cause to use one yet, but I am sure your course at the academy would have covered them. Several locked cabinets at strategically placed locations around all major settlements on Kashmir. A direct link to the Planetary Police Force Headquarters, to be used in emergencies to summon large scale back-up and for officers who have lost their radios to get back in contact with control.” “I do vaguely remember them mentioning those.” Sophie nodded, “I’m pretty sure they said that the system was becoming obsolete, since most officers have their own personal communicators now.” Demi rolled her eyes. “That sounds like something Sergeant Phillips would say,” She said distastefully, “I suppose you had him teaching that part of the course, did you? Anything that has been around longer than he has is obsolete, that seems to be his viewpoint. But he is mistaken, the system is still as useful now as it ever was, how many officers in the force do you think have Commander Bryden’s personal communicator number? Not many at all. Come on, I am still your mentor, it is about time I actually taught you something…”

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The communication station Demi took Sophie to was tucked away behind an incongruous metal hatch in the wall of a building just down the street from the office block. It was the sort of thing people could walk past every day and never even notice. Fortunately, the locks had not been changed from those of the original timeline, so Demi’s key still opened the lock. Inside was a slightly dated looking computer interface with a blue tinted holographic screen. Demi typed in the number for the planetary headquarters and the two waited for a moment before a middle aged woman who Sophie recognised as Bryden’s secretary, flickered into place on the screen. There did not seem to be a camera attached to the communication station, so Sophie assumed that the woman could not see them. “Hello, this is the KPPF headquarters, what is the nature of your emergency?” The receptionist asked. “We need to speak to the Commander.” Demi replied quickly, “It is of the utmost importance.” “May I ask what you wish to speak to him about?” The Receptionist enquired. “I am afraid the information we have is confidential,” Demi replied, “I can only pass it on to the Commander.” The Receptionist seemed to consider this for a moment. “Very well.” She said at last, “I’m transferring you now.” The screen cut to an image of a slowly revolving KPPF insignia for a moment, as they were put on hold, before flickering into an image of the large desk in the commander’s office. Behind the desk, a large high-backed chair faced away from the camera. The chair slowly turned around to reveal not Donal Bryden but Katar Dolabra. He looked older than he had when Sophie and Demi had last seen him, heavier and greyer, with thinner hair and a more heavily creased face, but he was unmistakably the same man. “Hello?” Dolabra barked, already irritated by their stunned silence, “Who’s there? Come on, I haven’t got all day.” Dolabra shook his head in irritation, and looked to something beyond the camera “Deirdre!” he shouted, “There’s something wrong with this damn thing, I’m not getting any sound out of it!” Demi hastily reached over and disconnected the call. For a moment she and Sophie were silent. “Well?” Sophie said at last, “What do we do now?” For the first time since Sophie had met her, the android looked thoroughly unsure of herself. “I... I do not understand.” She said at last, “Dolabra is dead, he died five years ago.” “Well he doesn’t look very dead to me.” Sophie rebuked, “And if he’s still running the police force, where is Commander Bryden? I know my modern history, Dolabra was corrupt and betrayed the planet during an alien invasion, Bryden had been discharged from the force, but built up enough evidence to have Dolabra stripped of his title. So if none of that has happened now…” “When commander Bryden was off the force, he worked for a few years as a security guard in the underground Market.” Demi cut in, “It was the destruction of the market that prompted him to come out of hiding and confront Dolabra. Perhaps that never happened, and Mr Bryden is still at the underground market. It is a long shot, but it is worth a try.” Sophie looked on wearily as her mentor programmed the two transport disks. “Even if we do find him, though,” She said, as Demi handed a disk to her, “if he’s not working on the police force any more I don’t see how he can help us.” “We have to try.” Demi said resignedly. “He is our only hope.” And with that she disappeared in a flash of blue light, Sophie following shortly after.

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Sophie found herself suddenly in the midst of a hot arid stretch of nothing, stray sand particles stinging her face and sticking in her still damp hair as they whipped past. The transport disks had put them down in the middle of the desert. “I did not think it would be a very good idea to teleport directly into the market.” Demi explained, walking out from behind her, “The underground market here was a lot like the one in Velhadrogahn is, full of criminals, underhand business deals and dark deeds. It is best not to attract attention to ourselves. The nearest entrance to the market is about half a mile that way.” Demi pointed into the distance, but Sophie could not see any sign of an entrance from where they were. Of course, she reasoned, it was entirely likely that the entrance was well concealed until you got to it, a secret criminal black market would necessitate an entrance that could only be found if you already knew its location. The two set out across the desert, Demi keeping a reasonably slow pace for Sophie’s sake. In the oppressive heat, it took them about half an hour to walk the distance that Demi had originally given. After another quarter of an hour, however, there was still no sign of this elusive entrance. Sophie decided not to mention anything, as she was aware that she had probably exceeded her allowance for emotional outbursts lately, and was also lacking the energy after her trek through the blistering heat. After another quarter of an hour they came to a slight rise in the ground, which they climbed. Looking out from there, they could see a vast crater, spreading out almost as far as Sophie could see. “I suppose this means the market was still destroyed in this timeline.” She said wearily. Her mentor said nothing, and simply stood on the ridge, looking thoroughly dejected. Sophie felt a sudden pang of homesickness. “Look, Demi, I don’t think there’s much more we can do right now.” She said, “I’m going home. It’s getting late, I haven’t slept properly since that night at Svetlana’s house, and that was nearly two days ago.” Sophie began to adjust her travel dial once more. “Ok.” The android responded, “I think I will try and find out some more information about what has changed since our trip to the past, see if I can work out where we stand, what we can do next, if anything. I will pop round to see you tomorrow.” “Do you have my address?” Sophie asked. The android nodded, “I was given your official records when you came to work with me at Velhadrogahn.” She confirmed, “I suppose a photographic memory is one perk of being an android.” Sophie gave a nod and a half-hearted wave to Demi before pressing the button on her travel disk once more, and being whisked away from the bleak desert.

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Night was beginning to creep its way into the orange tinted sky by the time Sophie arrived in the city centre of Vystral Paard. It occurred to her, as she made her way back home along the same route she usually took back from work, that she could just as easily have sent herself straight to her door, since this transport disk did not have the same limitations as the one she usually used for her commute. She briefly considered using her disk to jump the last stretch of the way, and save herself the walk, but it occurred to her that, as she was no longer on the police force, she had no way of recharging the thing once its power cell depleted, and so decided to conserve its power for more important things. The light was fading rapidly by the time Sophie reached her door and she was on the verge of entering her house when two rather unpleasant thoughts pushed past each other to take centre stage in her mind. Firstly, she was aware that her key to the door had been left amongst her belongings inside the room she had been given in the police accommodation in Velhadrogahn- a place where, in this timeline, she would never have been to. This brought forward the second, altogether nastier thought; what if this timeline had its own Sophie? She could remember all the things she had done in her police career over the past three years, things that in this world she clearly had not done. The prospect of finding a different version of herself on the other side halted her hand for a moment on its route to the door. Finally she gave in, realising that she would have to take the risk. Realistically, she didn’t have anywhere else she could go at this point, and if there really was another Sophie, maybe she could explain the situation to her. Just as she prepared once more to knock on the door, it swung open, silhouetting a figure on the other side. As Sophie squinted to see through the sudden flood of life from the hallway, a familiar female voice spoke out. “I thought I saw you coming up the path, what are you doing out there?” As Sophie’s eyes adjusted, she could finally see the face of her younger sister Monica. And that wasn’t all she could see. “Monica, what on earth are you wearing?” Sophie’s sister was clad in a belted red leotard over tights, an outfit that left very little to the imagination, her dark hair in a wild tangle of loose curls. “I’m going out in a bit.” Monica answered, as if this was some sort of explanation, while simultaneously grabbing a can of hairspray from a table by the door, sending a cloud of it into her already voluminous coiffure. “What about you, is that a new top?” Sophie looked down, remembering for the first time in a while that she was still wearing the clothes she had borrowed from Svetlana, now looking distinctly the worse for wear after their turn as sleepwear out by the fountain, and their subsequent trip through the dessert. “I hate to break it to you, Sophie, but the distressed look went out of fashion ages ago.” Monica said with a cheeky smile. “Right, I must have missed the memo on that.” Sophie nodded, “I suppose the current style is… whatever that get-up is, then.” “Well one of us has to be stylish, you know.” Monica replied with a wink as she grabbed, from a hook on the wall, a leather jacket that would probably cover her shoulders at a pinch but do very little else. “Don’t wait up, I’ve got my key with me, unlike some people.” And with that the younger girl was out the door and off into the night, leaving Sophie staring blankly at the space where her sister had been standing. Whatever changes had been made to the world clearly went beyond the specifics of who was and wasn’t on the police force. The Monica Sophie knew certainly enjoyed an active social life, and knew how to have fun, but going out to a late night party on a weeknight dressed like that… Sophie couldn’t think of a single nightclub or bar from her reality’s Vystral Paard that would serve a 15 year old, regardless of how grown-up she was dressed. Things were clearly a lot more complicated than she had initially thought. Too tired to process any further information, Sophie trudged up the stairs for a nice long soak in the bath to rid herself of the dirt and grime and sand of the past few days. As she lay immersed in the hot water her mind got to wondering what else might have changed in this new reality. More specifically, she contemplated whether her parents might have not separated. After all, her sister’s behaviour seemed different to what it was before; perhaps the circumstances that had led to her mother leaving might not have played out as before. Sophie realised that she hadn’t even checked in on her father before coming upstairs. She had gone into a sort of weary auto-pilot after her run-in with her sister. After drying off and slipping into her pyjamas, Sophie crept into her parents’ room, and tentatively opened the door of the wardrobe that her mother had used when she lived there. The wardrobe was empty, save for a stack of cardboard boxes at one end. Sighing in defeat, Sophie made her way to her own room, where she fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

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At the same time, on the opposite side to the planet, former Detective Sergeant 01D found herself walking down an empty street in Vystral Paard’s twin city of Destril Paard. Demi had gotten the distinct impression that her younger colleague had probably had enough of her over the past few days, the two of them had certainly had their clashes over the issues they had faced, not helped, Demi reflected, by the senior officers reluctance to compromise on her original position of authority over Sophie. Of course, the two of them saw things in very different ways- that was only to be expected between an organic lifeform and a mechanical one- the outlooks on life that they naturally took were, by definition, going to be different. Demi was predisposed to the idea that if her taking authority was appropriate for a good working relationship professionally, it would also allow for the best possible teamwork in this newer unofficial situation. As she found herself mooching through the remarkably quiet city street in the early afternoon sunlight, she began to appreciate just how harmful that inflexibility could be. After all, neither of them had any comparable experience to their current situation, so Sophie was just as likely to have valid ideas for what to do as Demi was. Demi was determined to try and improve their dynamic when she re-joined her companion later on, but for the time being it seemed best to give her as much space as was possible. Being somewhat literal minded, for Demi this meant taking her transport disk to the opposite side of the planet. Demi had worked briefly in Destril Paard during her first year on the force, and had found it to be pleasant, if a little dull. In the old days, before Commander Bryden had taken over the force and cleaned up the bulk of the planets lawlessness, the old city here had been the place with the lowest crime rates. Exactly why this might be Demi was not certain, but given that she had no idea where she lived in this reality, or if she even existed here at all, it seemed the safest place to wait out the night until Sophie had had sufficient rest time. Demi found herself gravitating towards a small but welcomingly homely looking pub across the road from where she had been walking. She remembered this establishment from her short time working in the city. It tended to be the one place where any criminals who might be passing through tended to stop. In spite of this, the landlord had been a surprisingly nice man, and was very successful at keeping the peace within his own very small realm. Given how reasonable the man had seemed in the past, Demi saw there being a good chance that he might let her use his pubs holonet facilities, to try and pick up some sense of what exactly had changed in this world. With a quick glance back down the street to make sure she had not been followed, Demi slipped inside the pub door.

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The pub was much the same on the inside as she had remembered, although there were only a small handful of patrons there at present. The landlord, a tall but stout middle aged man, stood behind the bar, cleaning the inside of a pint glass. Demi selected one of the unoccupied stools by the bar and waited until she caught the landlord’s attention. After a slight delay, the man looked up, sat down the glass and offered the android a welcoming smile. “Good afternoon, love,” he said amicably, “I haven’t seen you in here before.” Demi considered this for a moment. “No.” she replied at last, “It’s quite likely that I haven’t been here before.” The landlord looked puzzled for a moment, and then seemed to shrug the confusion off and resume his friendly patter. “The name’s Mike, Mike Fisher.” He announced, offering a large hand, which the android shook. “So what can I get for you?” Fisher nodded towards the shelves behind him, which were stocked full of a wide array of bottles and jars, containing all manner of liquids and concoctions, most of which would probably be extremely harmful to Demi’s systems were she to take enough. Of course, she mused momentarily, that would be the case for organic lifeforms too, technically speaking. She briefly toyed with the idea of pushing her system tolerance limits by actually having a drink, but quickly dismissed it. She would need to be in full operational fitness if she was to find a way through the current problem, and alcohol was most certainly not going to help with that. “For now,” she answered at last, sliding a few coins across the counter, “I would appreciate access to your holonet.”

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Several hours later, Demi was still in the little pub, as evening set in outside and the lamps were lit. It was winter in this part of the world, and although it was not especially cold, the days were notably shorter than they were in Vystral Paard. As the day had worn on, Demi had become more and more engrossed in the information she had found during her search. On the desk by the holonet terminal, she had a spiral bound notebook which she had managed to procure from one of the patrons of the pub, which she had now almost filled with notes and details, filling each page in an incredibly neat and methodical manner. As she had feared, great swathes of history from the past nine years had changed. Important events had disappeared from the records, and new ones had taken their places. Eventually, Demi felt she had streamlined the changes to time into lists of relevant and irrelevant ones, although it was hard to tell at first glance what alterations to history would have importance at a later date. At last, as night was beginning to fall, and feeling sufficiently well informed on the new state of affairs, Demi slipped the notebook into the back pocket of her trousers, paid Fisher the remaining amount she owed him for the use of the holonet services, then as an afterthought purchased one of the classier looking bottles from Fisher’s shelves. Slipping out into the gloomily lit street outside, Demi checked around her to make sure she was not being watched, before resetting her travel dial to Vystral Paard and activating it, leaving the quiet city street in a brief glow of blue light.

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Sophie’s alarm clock had been making its irritating noises for quite some time before she came to from the deep sleep she had been in. When she rolled over to turn the device off, the first thing she noticed, squinting her eyes at the glowing red readout, was the date. According to the clock, it was Saturday morning, and a helpful little pop up note informed her that the clocks would be going forward the following day. If this was correct then it was three days before she had been informed of her transfer to Velhadrogahn. For one fleeting moment, Sophie wondered if the past week could possibly have been a dream. But as she stretched and sat up she could see the sandy bundle of clothes that she had borrowed from Svetlana. Clearly the events had not been simply a dream, regardless of the time discrepancy. Sophie shook her head with dismay before looking at the clock once again. It was 11:30 am, much later than she was used to getting up on a work day. Of course, this was not really a work day now, at least until Sophie could determine whether she had a job in this reality. Since she had no memory of her life in this new world, she was not sure how she was going to work out what her job was or what hours she worked without arousing suspicion or looking like she was losing her marbles. As Sophie got dressed, she became aware that a lot of the clothing she had brought with her to Velhadrogahn was still here in her room. She briefly wondered if the underwear she had changed out of and subsequently left behind in the past would still exist now, and if so, whether this meant that there would be two copies of the same pair now. However, since a brief rummage through her drawer did not seem to produce any sign of the pair she remembered wearing, she pushed the thought from her mind as unimportant, grabbing her yellow watch from her bedside table and, slipping downstairs to the kitchen. Her sister – wrapped in a fluffy dressing gown and looking distinctly tired, with her hair having wilted somewhat from its impressive stature of the night before, now looking more unkempt than intentionally wild – was sipping from a mug of coffee that looked dangerously dark and thick. “Nice night?” Sophie asked with a look of mock-innocence, receiving a scowl in return. “I’m not staying up for long.” Monica declared, taking a deep gulp from her mug, “I’ve got to get this handed in to school, then I’m coming back for some sleep.” Monica motioned to a sparse pile of hurriedly scribbled papers on the table in front of her and added a few further marks to the top sheet. “She’s not actually been to bed yet, you know.” Sophie’s father remarked, entering the kitchen behind her. “I don’t know, I have one daughter who’s out all day doing goodness knows what, and sleeps well into the morning, and another who’s out all night doing goodness knows what, then sleeps all day. I don’t know who I should be more worried about.” “What’s all this about, Monica?” Sophie asked, feeling genuinely concerned at her sisters new responsibility-shunning lifestyle. “You’ve got what looks like a big homework assignment there, and from the look of it you’ve only started it this morning, isn’t this something important?” “Relax.” Monica rolled her eyes in response, “it’s only, like, forty percent of the mark, it’s not that important.” “That isn’t like you, though,” Sophie argued, “You’re really clever, you could do really well at school if you put the work in.” Monica gave no answer for a moment, pulling her papers in towards her irritably and straightening them up. “What’s the point?” she sighed despondently, “I could do great at school, I could do terrible, it’s not going to make any difference in the end, there’s hardly any further education for people like us, the sort of job I’ll probably end up with don’t care one way or the other about school grades, so I might as well enjoy myself for a while until I have to face the real world. I could throw my free time away like you did in that rotten old diner, but we both know how that turned out for you.” With that, Monica sloped off upstairs, presumably to get some less conspicuous clothes to wear on her brief trip into school. At around the same time, there was a knock at the door. Since her father seemed to have wandered off once more, Sophie got up to answer it.

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When Sophie opened the door, she found Demi waiting for her on the other side. “Is it ok if I come in?” the android asked, holding out a green bottle which had been tucked under her arm. “Peace offering?” she smiled hopefully, “I thought maybe now we have had a bit of a rest we could try to start over. We weren’t exactly getting on like a house on fire by the time we parted company last night.” “I don’t know, I’d say we were exactly like a house on fire.” Sophie grinned, “Destructive and heated.” Demi laughed at this with a thoughtful expression, “Interesting.” She mused, “I used a common figure of speech, which you chose to take literally for humorous effect, I feel like the only rule to organic convention is that there is no rule or convention to it. “Come in.” Sophie smiled, “It’s still breakfast, just about, so you’re welcome to join us if you want.” Sophie led Demi through the narrow hallway of her house to the kitchen at the back. Her father was back in the kitchen again, clearing up some of the empty dishes. “Oh, by the way,” he remarked as the two entered, “I forgot to mention before, you got a letter this morning, it’s under… um… one second, it’s here somewhere.” Grahame began lifting up various kitchen items to see if the errant letter was under any of them. “Who’s your friend?” he asked, as he peered cautiously into the toaster, looking relieved to find that empty. “This is Demi.” Sophie said, returning to her seat as her mentor offered her hand to Mr Bausch. “I’m very pleased to meet you sir.” She said, making an obvious effort to tone down the robotic affectations her voice naturally carried. “Sophie and I have been working on some important business over the past few days, a little venture that could prove to be rather… consequential.” “Excellent stuff.” Grahame smiled, still absent-mindedly rooting around the kitchen for Sophie’s post, “It’s about time you got yourself another job, young lady, there’s only so long that ‘destruction of workplace’ can count as a valid excuse for unemployment you know.” “I’ve gotten some research done while you’ve been asleep.” Demi told Sophie in a hushed tone while Mr Bausch was distracted, “It seems that Commander Bryden was officially recorded as dead seven years ago. He was at the underground market until then, and someone killed him, the circumstances weren’t clear at the time, they found his body deposited some distance away from the nearest entrance to the market, but it sounds like it was the result of some sort of heated altercation. His wife, Captain Mackintosh, seems to have died from unspecified causes about six years ago, as did Markus Linkleman. And then DI Batt about two years after that, that one seems less suspicious, an aneurism or something, supposedly stress related. But it seems like anyone on the force who might have been willing to help us is either dead or has never worked there to begin with.” “What about Xyston Dolabra?” Sophie asked, “He was our student liaison officer when we were transferring out from the academy onto the force, perhaps he could…” Sophie trailed off as Demi shook her head. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” She responded, “You won’t have been made privy to this information, being a very junior officer, but a short while before you joined the academy Xyston was heavily involved in an incursion on Vystral Paard, you probably heard about it on the news. I was involved heavily in the clean-up; I was drafted back in from Velhadrogahn for a while. He got a lot of officers and a lot of civilians killed, all as some vendetta to avenge his father’s death. I think he had a lot of deep seeded psychological issues, though, Brydon did not want his name dragged too much through the mud, since he came to his senses and helped put an end to it eventually, once he had had some therapy and was doing better he got given a relatively safe position on the force. But since Bryden was killed years before any of that happened, the chances are Xyston is just as unstable as before and probably working for his father now. We will not have any luck there. And the whole socio-economic state of the planet is set back from the world we knew by years, things have barely moved on since our trip to the past. If anything they’ve gotten worse. Massive social inequalities, very few civil rights to any minorities – including inorganic lifeforms such as myself – the whole world is a mess.” Demi was interrupted by the jubilant sound of Mr Bausch finally finding the errant envelope, which had found its way down into the gap between the rotating door of the breadbin and the breadbin itself. He passed his daughter the letter and headed towards the hallway. “Right then, well I’d best be off, time is pressing on. I’ll be back by dinner time, if you’re going out remember to lock up, Monica has her key with her, so don’t worry about locking her out.” And with that, Mr Bausch headed out of the house. Sophie and Demi barely noticed, as both were transfixed by the envelope in Sophie’s hand. It was an ivory colour, with a marbled texture to it, identical to the one that they had been sent at Svetlana’s house. “It’s him again.” Demi observed, “The old man, he must still be alive.” “Unless he just left instructions for it to be delivered.” Sophie interjected, “The stationary is so old it’s hard to tell. Either way, he must have known that this was the point where we would return to. Perhaps he has some more information for us; he might know how we can fix this mess.” “Quite possibly.” Demi agreed. “Shall we have a look?” she nodded meaningfully to Sophie, who gently opened the envelope and removed its contents, the paper inside once again matching that of the envelope. It read; “Sophie Bausch and Officer 1 Demi, I think by this time you will have established exactly what is wrong with the world you have found yourselves in. I must admit some responsibility, I had meant to stop you before you returned, but alas I’m not as young as I once was and all those stairs to the plaza got the better of me. I think it is important that we discuss the current situation in person, and recommend our previous meeting place. I think 4 o’clock this afternoon ought to give you enough time to get this letter and fully recover from your journey here. Time travel without a capsule is unpleasant and draining, so don’t feel too bad if you’ve spent most of the day asleep. Get yourselves some rest, I’ll see you in three hours.” Sophie looked up at the kitchen clock, which even in this reality had lost its moving eye feature, and saw that it was almost 1pm on the dot. How the mysterious stranger could have guessed so accurately at what time she would read his letter was beyond her ability to guess, but he was right about another thing, she really was lethargic this morning. She’d gotten up extremely late and proceeded to spend an hour and a half between getting ready and eating breakfast, and she still felt tired. “That diner is only fifteen minutes’ walk from here” she said, stifling a yawn, “Monica won’t be back home for a while yet, I think I might catch a few more winks before we leave, if you want to recharge or whatever, you’re welcome to do that.” She said, sweeping the last of the breakfast plates and cups into the sink before making her way back up the stairs, setting an alert on her watch as she ascended, so as not to oversleep and miss her appointment.

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Sophie and Demi arrived at the diner around ten minutes early. That is to say, they arrived at the place where the diner should have been ten minutes early. Clearly a lot had happened since their previous visit, as now the building was all but gone, only a few blackened charred remnants of the building left to show where it had been. “I take it the diner wasn’t like this in the old timeline, then?” Demi asked Sophie. “No.” Sophie shook her head. “I quit working here just before I joined the academy, but it never burned down. I wonder what happened.” “It was torched during an extensive string of arson attacks about a year ago.” A familiar warm yet gravelly voice came from behind the two. “The owner was paying protection to one of the cities two largest gangs, as were most small business owners, when the two gangs went to war they started burning down the establishments under each other’s protection. A very unpleasant business.” To Sophie’s surprise, although the stranger had looked incredibly old on their past encounter, he did not seem to have aged any further since then, even being dressed in the same attire. “You knew what would happen.” Demi said, brushing off this information with a stern glare, “You knew that the future we were going to was going to be changed, why did you wait so long to stop us?” “If you’ll recall,” the old man countered defensively, “I strongly advised that you stay to track down the man who had travelled to the past with you and bring him back, you seemed against that idea. As it turned out, history had already been set on an irredeemably altered course by that point, it wasn’t until I’d gone back to take some pre-emptive readings that I realised that. By the time I got to you I was too late to stop you.” “So this altered future,” Sophie said, trying to follow what the man was saying, “It wasn’t Roberts, he didn’t cause this?” the old man sighed, his face like that of a primary school teacher attempting to explain to a small child how numbers worked, “Well yes and no.” he replied noncommittally, “All the changes you see around you stem from his presence in the past, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that your own presences had only negligible effects on the timeline. But most of the problems, the real changes to history, started to surface six years ago, at the point where Commander Bryden was supposed to overthrow Dolabra and take charge of the Planetary Police Force. He’d been killed a year earlier, so no-one ever did put a stop to Dolabra’s regime. And the few people who had been gathering evidence that could be used against Dolabra, specifically his record keeper Markus Linkleman and communications officer Hayley Mackintosh, ended up being put out of the way as soon as Dolabra realised they were plotting against him.” “But was it Roberts who killed Bryden?” Demi asked impatiently. The stranger shook his head. “Not directly. But when you first arrived in the past, he killed another officer, who had been investigating the time anomaly on the rooftop.” “Brakosniev.” Sophie said quietly, “Svetlana’s husband.” “Precisely,” the stranger agreed. “In your original timeline, Brakosniev went on to arrest a man called Carlos Sugden, about a year after your visit, for armed robbery. Since he was never caught in this reality, Sugden went on to commit a string of other offences, which eventually led him to the underground market. He ended up in an altercation with the then head of security Donal Bryden and I’m sure you can work out the rest. In the original course of history, things had been on the brink of spiralling into chaos, economically and socially, Donal Bryden’s appointment to Commander of the KPPF was a turning point. After he had revealed how corrupt Dolabra’s system was, attention was turned to other governing bodies; there were a lot of sweeping reforms across the board. But none of that has happened now; society has broken, maybe irreversibly.” “But what can we do to fix it?” Demi asked. “Perhaps you shouldn’t.” the old man mused, “Civilisations rise and fall, even here on Kashmir, there have been great empires before yours, maybe it’s best to let this one fade away and allow the future to try and start afresh.” “But that would just be giving up.” Sophie said resolutely, “If we’ve brought about this mess then surely we can undo it, at least give civilisation a fighting chance, yeah?” The stranger smiled warmly at this, as if Sophie was a small dog who had just done an impressive trick. “Very well put.” He said, “And if you are willing to commit to it, I do have an idea that might work.” At this, the man produced from his pocket the same napkin he had been drawing on in the diner back six years earlier, “Now if you remember, you entered the anomaly at this point here, at the endpoint of the circle of intersection, and came out on the opposite side of the corresponding circle in the past. The circle is one week long in diameter, so the latest point of re-entry would have been in the same place a week after you arrived. Likewise, you will have noticed that you have arrived home a week before you initially left. Same basic principle, you have come out of the anomaly at the opposite end to the one you entered, although technically you cheated a little and cut in through the side.” “I don’t understand any of this.” Sophie said glumly. “Yes,” the old man empathised, “I’m afraid that condensing a five dimensional space-time event into two dimensions on paper is rather difficult, but bear with me. You got back one week before you left, so the anomaly, through which the two of you and Roberts initially went back, will open up in six days. If you can prevent Roberts from entering the portal this time then he will never have been in the past to kill Brakosniev, thus history is restored. Do you see?” Demi did not look impressed at this explanation. “Surely, though,” she argued, “If we’re not on the force, and the police are still as corrupt as you say, Roberts won’t be chased onto the rooftop in the first place. It was only because of us that he was there in the first place.” “This sort of paradox is self-regulating.” The old man said solemnly, “from this point, events will move to ensure that the newly established series of events is maintained. I suspect that, with or without your involvement, Roberts will find his way onto the rooftop in Velhadrogahn. And if he gets through the anomaly then he will kill Brakosniev like before, and loop the whole cycle round again.” “There’s still something I don’t understand.” Sophie said pensively, “This reality seems to have its own version of me, but she isn’t here, there’s just me. That suggests that I am the new Sophie, only I have no memories of any of the stuff I’ve done in the new timeline, I just remember things from before. Is there a different version of me who just disappeared when I arrived?” “You do like to ask difficult questions, don’t you?” the old man smiled at her. “The answer isn’t any less difficult. You and Demi passed through the confluence point of the paradox; you travelled back through the anomaly itself. The paradox was already forming, so it had to leave a space for you to fit into. There isn’t a second version of you, but you have always been here, while simultaneously you just got here yesterday. It’s a bit complicated, but don’t start worrying that an alternate Sophie has been deleted to make room for you, it doesn’t work like that.” “Good.” Sophie sighed, “It’s just that when I got here I still had Svetlana’s clothes. And if I’d been here the whole time I wouldn’t have had those, I think that was what put the idea in my head.” “Little details like that are able to slip through the cracks in the paradox.” The old man said, “We’re still in the first pass through the new time loop, it will get stronger with every repetition. That’s why we need to stop the cycle it before it repeats, and keep Roberts away from the past.”

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After saying goodbye to their mysterious friend at the site of the old diner, Sophie and Demi made their way back to Sophie’s house. Sophie still had a hundred questions in her mind about how they were going to proceed from there. The stranger had not been able to offer any specific ideas for how they could keep Roberts away from the rooftop in Velhadrogahn, insisting that he could not directly resolve the situation for them, and claiming to only be helping them in an unofficial off-the-record sense, whatever that had meant. Demi, on the other hand had a resolute look to her. “It seems pretty clear where we need to go from here,” She said to Sophie as the two rounded the corner and Sophie’s home came into sight, “Does it?” Sophie asked, “Not to me it doesn’t. We either have to find and contain Roberts before he gets to the rooftop, without any resources for tracking him down, or we wait for him to get there and try and overpower him at the scene, which really didn’t work well the first time. I don’t fancy our chances with either of those.” “You’re not exercising that classic organic process of thinking outside the box.” Demi smiled craftily, “There’s no reason why we should not have any resources at our disposal. I suggest we use the current state of the world to our advantage. No background checks, no lengthy training or screening process, if we want to capture a man in six days, without any reason that we could actually explain to anyone, all we need to do is join the police force.”

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The house had been locked when Sophie and Demi had reached it, but Sophie had had the sense to look around before she had left and located her key. Given the absence of her sister’s ‘evening’ jacket from the peg by the door, Sophie assumed that her Monica had returned from her trip to school and gone straight back out again. This was confirmed by a note she spotted, written on brightly coloured paper and tucked into the frame of the family picture hanging in the hallway. It read; “Hi Soph, Dana called, boyfriend troubles, I’ve popped across to see her. Don’t worry, I’ll get some proper sleep later. P.S, IOU one bottle of wine (;” Sophie sighed and shook her head, absent-mindedly folding up the note and slotting it into a gap in the back of the picture frame. This world really was different. The people she had grown up with had changed to a degree that they were essentially different people. Pushing her irritation at her sister not only helping herself to someone else’s alcohol, but also taking what had meant to be a reconciliatory gift from Demi, Sophie went through to the living room, where Demi already seemed to be jotting down notes for her plan of action for the following day, the coffee table in front of her strewn with sheets of paper, the most recent newspaper and what Sophie guessed must be Monica’s tablet computer, judging by the large golden “M” monogrammed on the front, matching a necklace the younger girl, often wore. “From what I can gather,” Demi said, not even turning around as Sophie entered, “Tomorrow at lunch time Commander Dolabra is making a big public speech down in Jaheeb City. It is customary for him to have a sizable amount of the police force present at public appearances, in case of any sort of attack. It seems there was an assassination attempt some time last year; he has greatly increased police presence since then for the rare occasions he has to address the public. If we can assimilate ourselves into the police force by then, there will be enough of a staff shortage from Dolabra’s speech that we should have the freedom to use the police database and work out where Roberts is. That’s going to be our best shot, but we need to be into the police force by then, which means we’ll really need to head out to the police headquarters tonight. My transport disk only has enough power left for one short trip, and yours will probably only have enough to get us there and some of the way back if it’s carrying us both. I’d rather we save some energy on both disks, in case of emergencies, so I would suggest we use your disk to travel one way and take the service bus the other way. Does that sound reasonable?” “That’s a pretty long bus ride.” Sophie said, unenthusiastically, “I had to take the bus for my first few days I worked there, until I got my transport disk. It’s not all that far away, but there’s an awful lot of stops on the way, it takes forever.” “Well then, you’d better decide which is less unpleasant,” Demi replied, “bus there and disk back or disk there and bus back.” Sophie gave this some thought. “We’re going to be pretty tired out after the bus trip, I know I will be.” She said at last, “We’d be better taking the transport disk there, at least then we’ll be alert if we need to be interviewed or anything. And I can just go straight to bed once we get back.” Sophie looked at her watch. It was already half past six. She had a feeling that this was going to be another long night.

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It was half past seven by the time Sophie and Demi had teleported into the Police headquarters and found their way to the applications office, which had not been where either of them was used to it being. To avoid any unwanted questions about how they came to own police teleport disks, they had chosen to materialise in a relatively quiet back street. The Police Headquarters itself was huge, more like a small metal city, kept about a mile into the sky by enormous and powerful turbine engines underneath. A lot of the staff lived in accommodation onsite, so there was a sizable residential area on the platforms western side. This was where Sophie and Demi had found themselves on arrival, which was as far away from the main public enquiries office as they could get. Having found this closed on their arrival, they had gone straight to the academy building, only to find it had been converted into what looked like a large storage warehouse. Eventually, almost by accident, they had happened past a small door, in a little back street, with a small sign on the door which read “Applications”. The room inside was small and cramped, with a very dated looking brown hue to the décor. At the other side of the room from the door was a small desk, behind which stood a man Sophie recognised from her time at the academy. “Xyston Dolabra?” Sophie said tentatively, unsure what to expect after the information her mentor had disclosed that morning. “That’s me.” The young man said gruffly, “What do want?” “We’re here to apply for work.” Demi said concisely, “That is what this office is for, is it not?” “Don’t get smart with me.” The junior Dolabra retorted, “Secretaries are hired through an external agency, we don’t need any communications officers, and even if we were, this office is just for police officer recruitment.” “That’s what we’re here for.” Sophie explained, “We want to be police officers. Proper police officers, fighting crime, all of that stuff.” Xyston gave a mean spirited laugh at this, “Yeah, no, that’s not going to happen.” He smirked, “You’re both female, you look like you’re about twelve and I’m pretty sure she’s an android, you have less chance of becoming police officers than my mother. And she’s dead.” “There’s no need to be like that.” Sophie replied irately, “I am aware that your current protocol states that women and androids can’t be full police officers,” Demi interrupted, “But is there not any way that the rules could be bent? My friend and I are very efficient and hard working.” “In the last five years, we’ve let one girl become a police officer.” Xyston replied idly, “And that was because I was trying to pull her, my old man did me a favour and slipped her through, for all the good it did. And before you get your hopes up, no; you’re too young for me and I don’t go for the whole robot love thing. So unless you’re a human male, physically fit and willing to do whatever we tell you then I can’t let you in, unless Commander Dolabra says otherwise. Sorry ladies. If you keep an eye out we might get some secretarial positions opening up in the future, but that’s about as good as you’re going to get.” Sophie rolled her eyes, “Well this has been a waste of time.” She sighed. “Not necessarily.” Demi countered, “You say that your father can approve officers into the force who don’t fall into the official specifications, is that right?” She addressed this to Xyston, who gave another mirthless chuckle. “Going to try and charm your way past him are you?” he laughed, “Well good luck with that, you’re certainly going to need it.” Any further discussion with the junior Dolabra was clearly going to be unproductive, so Demi and Sophie left the office, leaving Xyston to laugh away to himself.

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“So is that the plan then?” Sophie asked, “Are we going to try and charm our way in? I’m not saying we’re not charming, but from what I saw of him before, Commander Dolabra is about as easy to charm as a brick wall. An angry brick wall.” Both she and Demi were, at present, on the bus back from the KPPF Headquarters to Vystral Paard, and the journey was proving just as long and tiring as Sophie had predicted. “I am not saying we necessarily need to charm him.” Demi replied patiently, “But if we can impress on him that we are capable officers, and that it would be beneficial to have us on the force then I don’t see why he should not agree to hire us.” “I’ll tell you why he won’t,” Sophie said sullenly, “he doesn’t want capable officers, he wants jack-booted goons to do what he says. Those aren’t the same thing.” “I suppose we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see.” Demi replied curtly. “So we’re going to this speech then?” Sophie asked, “I thought you said he was always surrounded by police in public, how are we going to get close enough to ask him for anything?” “As you have so eloquently put it, Sophie,” Demi replied, “He will not be surrounded by police, but by ‘jack-booted goons’. We’re both highly skilled officers, I think we should be able to slip our way past a few of Dolabra’s thugs.”

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Last edited by bad geminton on Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Second Time Around *PART THREE ADDED 28/11/17*

Postby bad geminton » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:18 am

Sophie and Demi had arrived back at the Bausch residence very late that night, and had more or less gone straight to sleep, with Sophie putting up a makeshift bed in her own room for her mentor to sleep on. The morning alarm had rang far too early for Sophie’s tastes, after the lateness of the previous night, especially given the fact that the clocks had gone forward, the second time Sophie had had to go through that in as many weeks. As such, the two barely spoke a word to each other until they had dressed and gotten down to the kitchen for a spot of breakfast. Once they had drunk enough coffee to sufficiently liven up, Sophie finally broke the silence. “So what time is this big speech, then?” she asked, spreading some marmalade onto a piece of toast which, due to her father’s absence in the kitchen this morning, was properly toasted instead of blackened to a crisp. “The speech is to be at half past twelve.” Demi replied, “But we want to be there a lot earlier than that if we are going to have time to talk to Dolabra beforehand. That’s why I woke us up as early as I did,” Demi glanced at the kitchen clock which, at present, read 8:30 “I would usually advise eight hours of sleep a night, however, given the urgency of our situation, five hours will have to suffice for now. If possible, I’d like to be in Jaheeb by eleven. I am not sure of the public transport services along that route, but that should allow us sufficient time to get there if we leave fairly soon. This would not have been my first choice of apparel for a job interview…” Demi glanced down at the rather gaudy outfit that Sophie had lent her, “But seeing as the clothing I borrowed from Svetlana has deteriorated somewhat after three days continual wear, and without any apparent clothes of my own in this reality, I think this will have to suffice.” “Yes, sorry about that.” Sophie replied, “That was the most subdued stuff I could find for you. I only ever really wore black and white for working; I suppose that in this reality, since I don’t have a job, I never had any need to get anything that wasn’t bright and colourful. Anyway, we don’t need to bother with public transport, shortcuts from Vystral Paard to Jaheeb happen to fall into my field of expertise…”

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Sophie had not been down the bridle path to Jaheeb in quite a while, certainly not since she had been given her position on the police force, and was very much comforted to find it unchanged by that passage of time or, indeed, by the recent alterations to history. The path itself was one primarily used by farmers and other workers of the land that lay between Vystral Paard, Jaheeb and the nearby industrial city of Sernevi. Few others knew of this route, which was significantly more direct than the large ring road that encompassed the three cities, and had remained a public right of way after the opening of the ring road. The entire area was far more lush and green than anywhere else in the region, being heavily irrigated for agricultural use, and Sophie had spent a lot of time during her childhood playing in the wooded areas, and swimming in the artificial irrigation rivers. Demi, as it transpired, had never even heard of this alternative route, and Sophie was rather enjoying the feeling of knowing something he mentor did not. “I’ve always loved it here.” She explained to her android friend, “I think it just reminds me of my childhood. It’s the colours…” Sophie gestured to a bright and vibrant cluster of flowers growing from a gap in the dry stone wall by the side of the path, “Everywhere else is in shades of beige and grey and brown, the older you get the less colour there seems to be in the world. I think that’s probably why I like to dress so colourfully.” Sophie nodded to red and orange clothing that Demi had borrowed from her, “it lets me bring a bit of that colour into my everyday life with me.” “That makes sense.” Demi nodded, “I had wondered about that, you have shown quite a strong dedication towards dressing colourfully since I have met you. Even before you had access to your own wardrobe I had observed that your undergarments seem to be exclusively in bright colours, if you do not object to my saying so. I had wondered if there was a cultural significance to this, but it’s not the sort of thing one can really ask about.” Sophie let out an amused giggle at this remark, “I hadn’t realised my underwear had been quite so prominently visible,” she chuckled, “I suppose I’ve not really had much space to myself when I’ve been getting changed lately. But you’re quite right, they’re pretty much all in bright colours. It’s not a cultural thing, it’s just a me thing, more so the last few years when I’ve had to wear a uniform a lot of the time, if I want to wear bright colours then it has to be on the… well, the lower layers. The only time I’d wear black or white would be if I had something colourful on top.” She trailed off, sensing that the discussion was beginning to enter a stage of unnecessary personal detail, concluding by adding, “The only visible bit of colour I’ve managed to slip into my uniform is this watch.” She gestured to the yellow plastic device on her wrist.” Demi nodded once more “I understand the sentiment, although it’s not one I can really identify with.” She surmised. “I can see why you are attached to this place, and from a logistical point of view it is a useful place to know about, seeing as we have only been walking for an hour and a half and we already seem to be approaching Jaheeb.” She pointed to the vista in front of them, into which the cityscape of Jaheeb was, indeed, rapidly looming.

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The main square of Jaheeb’s city centre was already bustling and busy by the time Sophie and Demi arrived, although it was barely past ten in the morning, and there was already a noticeable police presence in the vicinity, with a large platform erected in the centre of the square in advance of Commander Dolabra’s big public address. With a bit of time to spare, and no apparent sign of the commander, Sophie and Demi purchased some coffee from a nearby vendor and sat down on the concrete rim of one of the decorative raised flowerbeds that circled the far edges of the square, keeping an eye on any developments, and working out what to do next. “Do you see where they are putting up that marquee sort of thing?” Demi pointed to some men who were, indeed, setting up a tent of some sort next to the stage. “That is where Dolabra is most likely to wait between getting here and going up to address the city. That is how it goes with these public appearances; he likes to keep out of sight as much as possible.” “So we need to get in there?” Sophie asked. “We do.” Demi confirmed, “But not yet. We need to wait until Dolabra actually gets here before we go in. The longer we spend in there, the more likely we are to get caught, so we want to make sure every second spent inside the tent is used persuading the commander to hire us.” “You’ll forgive me if I’m not filled with optimism.” Sophie murmured unenthusiastically, “Even if we do get to speak to him I suspect he’ll just tell us the same thing his son did last night.” “Do not be like that.” Demi admonished, “How does that saying go? Nothing ventured, nothing gained? All we need is one chance in the next five days to stop Roberts from getting to that rooftop. This is, at the moment, our best chance. And I am aware that, had I listened to you before, followed our friend’s advice and stayed in the past longer, we may well have been able to avert this situation we are in right now, by correcting the changes made to history, but we need to play the hand we have been dealt.” “You’re right.” Sophie conceded, “We have to try. So how do you plan on getting into that tent?”

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Sophie and Demi circled in from the edge of the square as nonchalantly as possible. Demi had had sufficient time to study the patrol patterns of the officers on guard around Dolabra’s tent to devise a path through the now bustling crowd that should avoid detection long enough to slip inside, provided they didn’t draw attention to themselves. After Dolabra had arrived, with a further police escort, they had simply had to wait for the correct point in the patrol cycle to begin their walk to the marquee. To Sophie’s astonishment, after their meandering path had had them turn left and right almost at random, they reached the entrance to the tent, and slipped inside without being stopped by anyone. Once inside, however, they were faced with a far less predictable obstacle. “How did you get in here?” Dolabra blustered, turning around and taking a defensive posture. “Guards!” “Shh, no, please don’t call for the guards,” Sophie tried to placate him, “We only want to talk to you.” “How did you get in here?” Dolabra scowled, his face like a thunderstorm. “We just walked in through the front.” Sophie said, “I’m as surprised as you are, your guards are a bit rubbish, really.” “What do you want?” Dolabra asked, calming down, but clearly still very irate at the intrusion, “If you’ve come to threaten me then you should know that there are due processes to follow, police favour is bought through cash bribes only.” “What? No, nothing like that,” Sophie recoiled at the thought; “we’ve come to ask you for jobs. We’re at something of a loose end at the moment and I’ve always rather fancied working in law enforcement…” “You want a job, so you’ve broken into my tent to ask me for one?” Dolabra said incredulously. “Secretarial posts aren’t even run through me, there’s an outside agency you need to go through.” “Yes, your son said that last night,” Demi interrupted, “And as we told him, we don’t want secretarial jobs, we want to be officers.” “Officers?” Dolabra laughed heartily at this, “Goodness me, we don’t take girls on as officers! How can I put this…? You lack the body strength needed for the physicality of the job. The people wouldn’t take to women officers; they want to see a man upholding the law. Preferably a big strong man, the public feel safe behind a strong hand.” “You have hired women before, though.” Sophie countered, “There is a precedent for it.” “Oh yes, you said you’d been speaking to my son,” Dolabra smirked, “There was that fat lass with the wonky eye, we had her on board for a little while, but it didn’t work out very well, no street sense and not even remotely interested in Xyston, what a waste of time. So I doubt he’ll have sent you two here on those grounds.” “Well he didn’t send us here as such.” Sophie clarified, “but it’s clear your current selection of officers leaves a lot to be desired, and my friend here and I have a lot of skills that we could bring to the police force. I just thought… I mean we rather hoped that we could appeal to your better nature.” Dolabra gave an unpleasant snort of amusement at this. “My better nature?” he repeated, “Ha! I’m sorry love, but you’re about thirty years too late on that one. I don’t have a better nature.”

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“Well I hate to say ‘I told you so’” Sophie said dolefully, as she and Demi retook their seat on the low concrete wall on the edge of the square. Behind them, the microphone on the stage was being checked in preparation for Dolabra’s announcement, “But I kind of did. What are we going to do now?” “I do not know.” Demi replied, lacking the confidence she had been bolstered with while concocting her plan the previous day, “Do you think perhaps if we got very short haircuts we could pass ourselves off as male for long enough to get into the force?” “That sounds like something out of a movie; I don’t think that sort of thing works outside of fiction.” Sophie replied, shaking her head, “I mean look at me, a short haircut isn’t going to change anything, you could shave my head, no-one’s going to believe I’m a man, even for a moment.” Demi looked at her thoughtfully at this “No, don’t go getting any ideas.” Sophie cut in, before Demi could say what she thought she was going to say, “We’re not doing that.” The thoughtful expression did not change. “Seriously,” Sophie continued, “I remember when I was about eleven it was fashionable at my school for a while for girls to shave their heads, trust me, I tried it then for a while and it takes absolutely ages to grow back. I mean, for all I know your hair probably swaps on a peg, but I have to wait for mine to grow out.” Demi still wasn’t saying anything. “I’ve just finished redrawing it from the last short haircut I had.” Sophie sighed, almost ready to admit defeat under Demi’s unwavering gaze, then realised that it was not her that Demi was looking at, but something behind her. Turning around, she could see something moving in the distance. Along the opposite side of the street from the square was a raised walkway which ran beyond the square in both directions, allowing access to a number of shops and cafes located on the first floor of the buildings on that side of the road. There was a lone figure skulking around on this walkway, leaning on the railing and seemingly getting a sense of the lay of the land ahead of him. Whoever it was had his hood up and looked decidedly suspicious. As Sophie looked closer, she could see a familiar shape outlined in the man’s hoodie pocket. “Demi, that man up there has a staser pistol in his jumper pocket.” Sophie said urgently, feeling a sinking sensation of panic wash over her, “Yes, I am aware of that.” Demi replied calmly. “He must be here to assassinate Commander Dolabra,” Sophie continued, confused by her friend’s blasé attitude, “what do we do?” “Perhaps we should not do anything.” Demi mused, still seemingly unfazed by this development, “After all, a lot of the problems from this altered timeline stem from Dolabra still being alive, maybe if he is assassinated here today things will right themselves.” “Demi, if he’s killed right now, in the current system, he’ll just be replaced by someone exactly the same.” Sophie argued, “Not only that, but someone who has been trained under Dolabra’s system, who has been taught from the start that policing means corruption, instead of being forced into that position. Dolabra isn’t a good man by any means, but right now he’s the best we’re going to get, now what do we do?” “You are right.” Demi agreed at last, jumping to her feet. One of us needs to go and warn Dolabra while the other tackles the assailant. I would recommend myself for the latter, since that task is by far the more dangerous, and I am significantly more resistant to staser firepower than you are.” “Right.” Sophie nodded, running out into the crowd almost immediately, “But you’re not indestructible, be careful, ok?” she called behind her.

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The crowd was much denser now than it had been before, and without Demi’s calculated manoeuvres, it was very hard to move through them. As she neared the stage, she saw Dolabra exiting his tent and making his way to the steps at the rear of the stage. There were no steps at the audience end. Looking over her shoulder, Sophie could see that Demi was not close enough to tackle the mystery gunman before he got a clear shot at the commander. Now reaching the front of the stage, Sophie did the only thing she could think of, vaulting up onto the platform and diving onto Dolabra as he took his place at the dais, knocking him to the floor, just as a green bolt of energy singed overhead, striking an officer who had been standing behind Dolabra. Almost immediately, two more officers grabbed Sophie from under her arms and hauled her off the commander, their grip firm and painful. “What the hell is the meaning of this outrage?!” Dolabra roared, before noticing the dead officer, now slumped over the dais that he had been standing at a few short seconds ago. Looking up to the raised walkway, Sophie could see that Demi had managed to tackle the hooded assailant to the ground while his attention had been on the events onstage. Dolabra let out a rather sheepish “Oh.” and gestured to the officers restraining Sophie to release her, who did so – albeit reluctantly. “Well.” The commander exhaled, “It seems you have saved my life, young lady. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be paying you jokers for!” he turned his attention to one of the officers on stage with him, swatting at the larger man with his rolled up speech notes. “I can’t say I entirely understand why you would do this for me, I was very rude to you not half an hour ago, but you may consider me to be in your debt.” Sophie straightened out her hair and clothes which had become rather dishevelled in the fracas, and turned to Dolabra with her sweetest smile. “It’s funny you should say that, sir,” she said, nodding towards the walkway, where a handful of officers had now swarmed to assist Demi in holding the failed assassin, “because, you see, my friend and I are kind of looking for jobs…”

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TO BE CONTINUED
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Re: The Second Time Around *PART THREE ADDED 28/11/17*

Postby DukeNukem 2417 » Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:20 pm

Apologies for the late reply---as always, this is stellar work, and another for the "if this were on DVD or TV, I'd watch it" list. 8-)

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Re: The Second Time Around *PART THREE ADDED 28/11/17*

Postby bad geminton » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:38 am

Chapter 4: Where memory ends

“I hope I don’t come to regret this.” Dolabra grumbled, his brain apparently struggling to communicate his mood to his face, as his expression seemed to be in flux between genuine annoyance and a sort of grudging respect. The process of hauling Sophie and Demi up to the police headquarters and issuing them with their new uniforms and equipment, despite the brevity of their training, had taken up a large chunk of the afternoon. They now sat in Dolabra’s office being debriefed, an experience that brought back all of the emotions that the two officers had experienced on their previous interview in that room. Sophie found herself fiddling nervously with her watch as Dolabra addressed them. “You’re both sharp and quick and clearly very clever,” Dolabra continued, “but those aren’t generally traits that are called for in the job. If you have your own set of moral rules then I want you to set them aside. What I say goes in this police force. You’ve shown loyalty towards me today, which I am repaying by giving you the chance to work for me. If you want that to continue then I expect this loyalty to continue. I don’t want to hear any paperback novel garbage about a maverick cop with a heart of gold going against the rules to catch the criminal; you do what you’re told and nothing else. Now get out of my office before I change my mind.” And with that, the two were whisked out of the room, taken to the locker room that had been Sophie’s morning commute destination until so very recently, handed their short range travel dials and sent on their way. Landing back in the centre of Vystral Paard, Sophie took a moment to catch her breath after the whirlwind of a day they had just had. Peering into the duffel bag that she had been issued with, she pulled out the shiny black PVC jumpsuit that had been provided, clearly designed for a slight man rather than a woman. “I never thought I would actually miss my old uniform,” She said unenthusiastically, “but it looked like the last word in style compared to this.” Sophie pushed the jumpsuit back into the bag. “These jumpsuits were standard uniform for most patrolling officers until Bryden took over.” Demi informed her, “They were phased out when the role of ‘police thug’ was abandoned, Bryden didn’t think the police force should look like military troopers, the uniform was changed to reflect a more community helping approach to policing.” “Shame they couldn’t have thrown a little colour in while they were doing that.” Sophie sighed wistfully. “Tell me, have you ever considered dying your hair?” Demi suggested, “Something bright like green or blue, there is no uniform regulation on hair colour, if you are so keen on bright colours, perhaps you could add colour to your appearance in that way.” “I dyed it pink when I was about thirteen.” Sophie reminisced, “My mum wasn’t keen on it, but I kept it going for about a year. In the end, though, I found I was spending so much of my pocket money on hair dye that I hardly had any left for anything else, it kind of put me off the idea. And then a couple of years ago I was in the big stage production with the police academy drama group, I had to cut my hair and dye it red for that… Other than that I’ve just left it as it is.” “Goodness me,” Demi remarked with an arched brow, “no hair when you were eleven, pink hair when you were thirteen, blonde the rest of the time, you certainly kept your appearance varied when you were growing up.” Demi smiled contemplatively, “It is interesting; as an organic lifeform your appearance is a lot more fixed, whereas I could alter my appearance quite easily, but I have maintained a consistent appearance throughout my operational lifetime, whereas you have not.” “I suppose people who can’t really change how they look are more likely to want to try.” Sophie mused, “Anyway, we’d better be heading home – they want us in early tomorrow, so we’ll need to get a better night’s sleep than we did last night, or I will at least.” “Understandable.” Demi nodded, “Hopefully there will be enough time between carrying out whatever arbitrary asks they give us to make some progress in tracking down Roberts.”

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It did not take them very long to walk back to Sophie’s house, and her father was sitting in the living room when they got there. “I’ve got some good news,” She informed him, as she entered the room, sitting on the sofa next to him, “I’ve finally got myself a job, so you won’t need to worry about…” “I’m well aware of what you’ve been doing today.” Mr Bausch replied coldly, “It’s been all over the news.” “But isn’t that good?” Sophie asked, a little taken aback by her father’s tone, “You were just saying yesterday that I needed to get myself another job.” “I just don’t understand you.” Mr Bausch replied, not looking his daughter in the eye, “How could you save a man like that, after everything that’s happened over the last few years. And now you want to work for him?” “It’s not like that,” Sophie protested, “I want to try and make things better, be a force for good within the police.” “You can’t possibly believe that.” Her father fumed, rising from the sofa and crossing the room away from her, “Not after what happened to your mother.” “Wait what?” Sophie responded in puzzlement, “What are you talking about?” “I’m not playing these mind games, not with you.” Her father replied, his voice raising and wavering. “Just do what you like, I don’t care.” And with that he stormed out of the room. For the first time since she had arrived in this new timeline, Sophie was hit with a feeling that these people she was living with, although the same family she had grown up with on a biological level, were entirely different people, people that she didn’t know at all. “What did he mean, about my mum?” She asked Demi hesitantly, “You spent a whole night looking up changes to history, did something happen to her?” “There was nothing I found out about your mother,” Demi replied levelly, “but the only events I could find were those of large political significance. If something has befallen your mother, as your father seems to suggest, it is unlikely that I would be able to find out about it online.” “Well I can’t ask my dad or my sister,” Sophie protested, “they’ll think I’ve gone mad if I start asking them about things I should already know. I can’t just leave that up in the air, this sounds like something I need to know.” “Perhaps it is better that you do not know.” Demi replied, “We need to focus our attentions of correcting history, once we have done that, this version of history will be void, and whatever has happened to your mother will not have happened anymore.” “I’m not sure I can just let it go like that.” Sophie responded. “Even in an Alternative timeline, she’s still my mother.” Demi placed a comforting but firm hand on Sophie’s shoulder, “We cannot get distracted from our mission.” She reiterated, “I suggest we get an early night; you said yourself we have an early start tomorrow, you will need all the sleep you can get.”

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For once, Sophie decided to do as Demi had instructed without further argument, changing and heading to bed quite early. Demi, on the other hand, not requiring as much rest time as her human colleague, stayed up to review the short pamphlets they had been given outlining the rules of working on the police force. By the time five o’clock rolled back around, Sophie awoke feeling fully rested for the first time since this time-travelling ordeal had begun. Demi seemed to have fully absorbed the information from the little booklets, and was already dressed in her new uniform by the time Sophie woke. She explained the general rules as Sophie clambered into her own jumpsuit. In comparison to the expected protocols Sophie was used to from her time under Commander Bryden, there were very few actual rules. What few rules there were tended to be “do’s” for every “don’t” that Sophie could think off from the regime she was used to, and vice versa. It sounded like it was going to be a very difficult system to work under. Fortunately, however, the booklet also mentioned that all officers had full access to the police records, for reasons undisclosed, which would almost certainly be helpful in finding Roberts. After nine years, Roberts was sure to have made himself known to the police, even if the general approach to crime prevention was somewhat lax. Sophie knew that even in the old days before Commander Bryden took charge, the police were aware of the movements of the larger scale criminals, even if they did nothing to stop them. As she made her way downstairs, Sophie stopped to check in on her sister. Peering in as quietly as she could, she could see the younger girl asleep in her bed. Sophie was pleased that, at least this morning, Monica had managed to get herself to bed before breakfast time. There was no sign of Sophie’s father downstairs, so she made her own breakfast and then headed out, making sure to pick up her key on the way. Conversation between the young officer and her mentor was fairly minimal as they made their way to the city centre, so Sophie inspected the various pieces of equipment she had been issued with: There was a large and rather unfriendly looking stun-baton clipped into a holster on her belt - a devise that resembled a cattle prod as much as anything. Clipped into the other side of the belt were a very unsophisticated set of handcuffs, without any apparent key. Sophie had been used to using much newer magnetically locked handcuffs, so these crude and poorly maintained ones came as something of a surprise. Evidently they were there more from tradition than any propensity to using them. She had a police radio, identical to the ones she and Demi had brought from their own timeline, and of course the short range travel dial to get her to and from the police headquarters. She still had the travel dial she had brought from her own timeline, although it was now very low on charge, which she was wearing on a chain around her neck under her jumpsuit. Apart from that, the only item of her own that she had on her person was her watch, which was starting to feel like her only real link to the world as she knew it. Soon enough they were in the city centre once more, and the short range transport disks came online, allowing the two officers to beam up to the police headquarters to begin their careers in a very different police force to the one with which they were accustomed.

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When the pair arrived at the station’s locker room, they were greeted by a grey-haired sergeant who looked to be about sixty, and looked thoroughly disinterested. “Good morning constable, constable.” He addressed them, “My name is Sergeant Dunoon, you can call me Sergeant Dunoon. I’m going to be your duty sergeant, if you have any questions then please keep them to yourselves.” He motioned for them to follow him, and then continued his introduction. “As you might be aware, we don’t have any female officers on the force, and we don’t have any android officers on the force, so you’re probably going to find a lot of resentment towards you. People around here don’t like new things; it makes them feel insecure in themselves. Personally I don’t care. I’m three years from retirement and I’m not dead, I got where I am by not caring about anything. If you’re planning on staying in this job for any great length of time then take my advice; let apathy be your watchword.” Sophie and Demi exchanged a bemused glance as Sergeant Dunoon stopped abruptly outside a small room in the nondescript grey corridor they has been walking down and opened the door. “It’s your first day, so I don’t want you doing anything consequential. I want you to work though this evidence locker. There is a sterilisation chamber near the back, you take items out of bags marked U for unsterilized, take the catalogue card out, sterilise the item, put it in a new bag from the roll on the wall, along with its card, then mark the bag with an S for sterilised.” “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand, why are we sterilising evidence?” “Ah, no, rule number one; no questions.” Sergeant Dunoon replied testily, “We keep them nice and clean, stops us catching any nasty criminal tendencies, does that satisfy your curiosity?” “They remove DNA profiles from murder weapons and other pieces of evidence so that they can replace them with something that suits them, should they need a crime to pin on someone else later on.” Demi informed Sophie in a voice that made little effort to be hushed. “Yes, thank you… um… I want to say Siri?” “Demi.” The android corrected him. “Yeah, ok, I’m not going to remember that. Your friend’s name is ‘not my problem’, your name is ‘not my problem: techno remix’, collectively… I just don’t care. But you’re right, top of the class, we sterilise the evidence so it can be used for whatever dark and twisted purposes our overlords have for them. I prefer to just not think about that side of things, it gives me a much better night’s sleep. Alcohol helps, though. I hope you’re making notes there… Daisy?” He addressed this last remark at Sophie, who did not bother correcting him, “There won’t be a test on this, but you can consider your test to be the next forty years of working here, or however long you have left if the gods are merciful and take you early. I think that’s enough orientation for one morning, I’ll leave you two to it, do as much as you feel like, I’m not planning on checking what you’ve done, if you have any problems, write them up on a post it note and leave it somewhere where I won’t have to see it. Have a nice morning.” And with that, the old sergeant left the room, closing the door behind him. “What a strange man.” Demi remarked, taken aback by their new duty sergeant’s bizarre attitude. “I don’t know,” Sophie mused, “I rather liked him. I mean he’s definitely the nicest person we’ve met on the force since we got here.” “I suppose technically he is.” Demi nodded, “Although that would not be difficult. Score one for grumpy old man, I guess.” “He has a point though.” Sophie interjected gloomily, “Anyone working here that isn’t actively evil would have to convince themselves that they don’t care about the situation they’re in, it’s the only way to stay sane. Once Dolabra bumped off the officers that were working towards deposing him, blind conformity would have been the only option left. It’s quite sad, really” “You are right.” Demi agreed. “Well, I do not want to spend a day destroying evidence that might be useful later, even if the events of this timeline are going to be reversed later on. I suggest that I memorise the inventory of this storage facility, in case there is anything that might be useful later on, if we are investigating Roberts. In the meantime, I suggest you work on improving your technical skills;” the android indicated towards the steriliser, “Constable, if you could sabotage that device please.”

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The day had passed relatively quickly, with Demi going through most of the items in the room and making an internal note of the contents and context of every bag, while Sophie set about with a screwdriver, which she had taken out of one of the already sterilised bags, crossing connections and removing wires and small pieces of circuitry until she was sure the machine couldn’t possibly be operational any more. Just to check, she removed her handcuffs, which were quite visibly grubby, pressed her thumb down as hard as she could into the grime until there was a clear print on them, then placed them in the steriliser and switched it on. There was a fizzling noise from under the controls, and a whine of protest from deep within the device until a series of red error lights came on, blinking sporadically for a while, until everything went off and the machine was silent. The hatch did not open to let Sophie remove her handcuffs - indeed the entire device seemed to have died. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” Sophie called across to her colleague, who was still engrossed in her work, “The steriliser is broken, but I’ve lost my handcuffs inside it.” “What happened to the handcuffs we had when we went back in time at first?” Demi asked. “The police confiscated them when they arrested us.” Sophie replied, pulling forcefully on the hatch to no avail, “Our mysterious benefactor gave us some of our equipment back, but I don’t think he gave us those.” “Oh well, I suppose we shall just have to get you some more.” Demi concluded, “That door is hydraulically sealed, if you have broken the mechanism then you will not be able to get it open again.” Sophie sighed in frustration and began looking around the room to see if there was anything else of interest to pass the remainder of the day while Demi catalogued the items in the locker. Her attention had just drifted to an enigmatic filing cabinet in the back corner marked ‘Undeclared’ when Sergeant Dunoon came back in. “Ok, kids, did you have fun?” He asked drily, “Don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question.” “What’s this filing cabinet for?” Sophie asked the duty Sergeant. “I thought we’d covered asking questions this morning.” Dunoon sighed, “That is for undeclared crimes, anything that is reported but to our knowledge neither caused by nor carried out against our high paying elite. It’s the same as the evidence in here; we keep it handy in case we need to pin something on someone. We can choose a case from the files and dig out the relevant pieces of evidence, then fill out the necessary details for our own ends. As I said before, it’s best not to think about it. Sometimes we have a new officer who decides they want a bit more action, so they take a file from the pile and try and solve it properly. If you want my advice, though, leave them well alone. They might be undeclared for now, but most of them will bring all manner of unpleasantness out of the woodwork if you start poking around. We’ve rarely had an officer work on more than one case in their career. The lucky ones got pulled off the case before they could do any real harm, some had a bit of sense knocked into them, but others have had much harsher consequences for their actions.” Dunoon looked set to leave after this, but Sophie stopped him, remembering that she was still short of a set of cuffs, “Sergeant Dunoon, can I have another set of handcuffs?” she asked abruptly, “I’ve lost mine.” The sergeant turned, looking bemused, “How did you… no, you know what, I don’t care, there’s a room full of them down the hallway, room 119, help yourself. But I hope this doesn’t mean you have any ideas about solving undeclared crimes, I’m sure you have a family that you care about, various loved ones out there, you don’t want anything happening to them now, do you?” “Is that a threat, Sergeant?” Demi enquired. “No,” The old man said gloomily, “It’s just some good advice from an officer with more experience than he’d like. Enjoy it while you can, because I don’t give it out very often.” The Sergeant headed back out into the corridor without another word. “Come on, Sophie,” Demi said decisively, “We had better get you kitted out then head home.” “Are we going to try and solve one of the undeclared crimes?” Sophie asked. “Yes,” Demi nodded “I think that would be our best chance of finding Roberts.” Sophie nodded silently, still concerned after what Sergeant Dunoon had said.

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There was no sign of Mr Bausch when they returned home, and Monica was playing some aggressive sounding music very loudly in her room. When Sophie closed the door, however, the music was turned down, and Monica appeared, leaning over the stair railing. Her hair was as wild as Sophie had seen it, and her makeup was streaked as if she’d been crying. She was particularly underdressed, even by her own recent standards, wearing only a tight fitted t-shirt and some particularly insubstantial undergarments. She made a half-hearted attempt to pull her shirt down to cover herself a little more, but it was not a successful venture. “Do you want me to turn that off?” She asked hoarsely, nodding up towards her room, “I don’t want to keep you awake if you want an early night.” “No, you’re ok, we’re not needing to go to bed right away.” Sophie replied, looking at her watch- it was only seven pm, “Are you ok?” Monica made an effort to wipe off the worst of the smears of her eye makeup and nodded, “It’s fine, it’s nothing.” She insisted, coming down the stairs so as not to have to hold the conversation over such a distance, “I had a bit of an argument with dad this morning, I’ve kind of been feeling a bit emotional since then.” “He seems to be in a bad mood with me too just now.” Sophie empathised, “He doesn’t seem to be speaking to me, I’ve never seen him like that before.” “I wouldn’t take it personally, Soph.” Monica replied despondently, as if taking it personally was exactly what she had been doing, “He’s worked up about a lot of things just now, and with you joining the police after everything that happened with mum…” Sophie raised her eyebrows, hoping that she might finally learn what had happened to her mother, but Monica clearly misread the facial expression as she hastily backpedalled, “Not that I’m judging, I’m hardly the golden child myself right now.” Monica said dolefully, “I think I’m going to head out for the night, Dana’s still a bit down in the dumps, so I’ll maybe take her out on the town a bit, cheer her up. I’ll see if I can get you a new bottle while I’m out, replace that one I borrowed, yeah?” “Where do you think you’d be able to buy a bottle of wine at your age?” Sophie asked, still concerned. “You see, this is what you missed out on when you were in school, Soph,” Monica said with a cheeky grin, her melancholy mood seemingly switched off in an instant, “spending all your free time working, you never learned anything fun.” At that, Monica hopped up the steps to her room, grabbed a skirt which covered more of her, at least in relation to how little she’d been wearing before, and a handful of banknotes, which she tucked into the front of her bra, and skipped back down the stairs. “How do I look?” she asked her older sister, as she paused by pegs next to the door where her jacket was hanging “Sort of… hairy?” Sophie ventured, looking at the behemoth of hair that her sister seemed to have teased and tangled out to an almost gravity defying degree. “Yeah, I’m thinking it’s about time I changed up my style a bit.” The younger girl said, running a hand through one side of her hair as she looked in the hallway mirror, “Something really different, the crazy shrubbery look is a lot of fun, but I could do with a change.” She pulled her hair back from her face for a moment and looked at her reflection pensively, “How do you think I would look bald, do you reckon I could make that work?” She asked, turning back to her sister. “Why, has that come back into style again?” Sophie asked. “Not yet it hasn’t,” her sister said playfully, “but it’s good to stay one step ahead of the crowd, I always think. I remember years ago you shaved all yours off, dad nearly went mad about it.” “Well, if you want my honest opinion, I think you could make the style work, if you really wanted to.” Sophie mused, “From experience it’s immensely satisfying shaving it off to start with, it’s a pretty fun style to have, and quite convenient in a lot of ways. The only thing is, it’s an absolute nuisance to grow back out once you’re ready for something new.” “Oh well, I’ll take that under consideration.” Monica nodded thoughtfully, “Something to think about another day. Anyway, I’ll see you later; the night waits for no-one. Unless you want to come too?” “Oh, I really wish I could.” Sophie sighed, “Perhaps then I could keep you out of trouble.” “Don’t count on it.” Monica replied, giving a cheeky grin, “I think if I tried hard enough I could find some trouble to pull you into, that would be way more fun.” And with that she left the house, grabbing her jacket on the way out. “I’m really worried about her.” Sophie said, looking around to her android friend, who was making herself comfortable down in the living room, “You are concerned about her plans to shave off her hair?” The android asked, “No, that’s not particularly worrying, I could see my own Monica doing something like that,” Sophie replied, “It’s everything else, the late night partying, crying in her room, how suddenly her mood seems to flip back and forth, she’s behaving very strangely.” “You have to remember that she has grown up in an environment entirely different to the one in which you were raised.” Demi reassured her, “it would be hard to know exactly what changes to the world could be attributed to any given change in her personality, but to all intents and purposes she might as well be a different person.” “That’s just the thing, though,” Sophie said morosely, “She’s probably the least changed thing in this new world, her personality is exactly the same, she’s cheeky and funny and a little mischievous, she’s the same person at the core, all the changes are on the surface, but it’s like seeing her having an emotional breakdown and not knowing why. It’s really upsetting to watch happen. This new world really is a depressing place.”

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Sophie had an early night that night, although her sleep was very troubled. Following the strange behaviour of her sister that night, and the argument with her father the previous night, she was feeling increasingly lost in a world that was simultaneously so familiar, and somehow entirely unfamiliar. Demi took the opportunity to recharge in the makeshift bed Sophie had previously put together in her bedroom and so by the morning they were both at least rested, if not entirely refreshed. Sergeant Dunoon was not waiting for them in the locker room when they teleported up, so the pair went straight through to the evidence locker they had worked in the previous day in order to browse through the undeclared crimes for something that might lead to Roberts. Sophie was quite pleased to see that the sterilisation machine was still broken, and no repairs appeared to have been attempted. It wouldn’t have done them much good to spend their day explaining how and why they had broken the machine on their first day. The two officers gathered the more recent of the undeclared cases and split the pile between the two of them. It didn’t take long for Sophie to spot something unnervingly familiar. “Demi, come and have a look at this,” She called over to her mentor, “This councillor from Jaheeb, James Hutcheson, was found stabbed to death in a garage on a housing estate, and the body was left sitting watching a television.” “Just like the body we found that Roberts killed before.” Demi nodded, “It is a sufficiently unusual detail to at least be possible that Mr Roberts has taken that as something of a calling card.” “It’s very recent,” Sophie noted, “This just happened last week, so if we look into it and this was Roberts then we’re in with a good chance of catching up to him. And if we can arrest him by Friday…” “Then he will not be on the rooftop to travel back, thus the cycle will be broken and time will be repaired.” Demi finished. “But we need to follow this case by the book, it is possible that the television is a red herring and that Roberts has had nothing to do with it, we will interview any relevant people and visit the scene of the crime. The incident was apparently reported by his secretary, a Miss Pitaressi, so I would suggest visiting her first.”

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Corinne Pitaressi, former secretary to the late councillor of logistics, was more than happy to meet the two officers when they came to her office. She struck Sophie as an extremely beautiful woman; she appeared to be only a few years older than Sophie, tall and dark haired, dressed in varying shades of purple with a pair of purple framed cats-eye shaped glasses. Sophie was somewhat envious of this wonderfully colourful work attire, which was made all the more colourful in contrast to the beige environment of the council building. “I want to let you know, before we go any further, that I stood to gain from Councillor Hutcheson’s death.” She informed them almost as soon as she had welcomed them to her office, her voice carrying light strains of an accent not dissimilar from earth Polish, “The position of logistics councillor is not one many people want, and in the absence of any other suitable replacement, given my experience with the department as secretary to Mr Hutcheson, I have been appointed the new councillor of logistics. This has been a big promotion for me, and has opened up a lot of opportunities. Also, not to speak ill of the dead, but I did not think Councillor Hutcheson was well suited to the position, he made a lot of big promises but rarely upheld them.” “Why are you telling us all of this?” Sophie asked, a little taken aback by the new councillor’s directness. “Because I think it is important that you have all of the facts.” Councillor Pitaressi replied, “Even if they are not facts that are favourable to me. I was not hopeful that the police would investigate this death, but I am very grateful that you are. I was the one who found the body, it was only a week ago and I have not slept properly since.” Sure enough, Sophie could see that the councillor’s startlingly blue eyes, magnified by her glasses, were tired, with dark circles that her makeup did not quite conceal, “The thought of someone doing something like that to another person, and then being free to roam the streets horrifies me.” Pitaressi continued, “So I will do everything in my power to help you with your investigations.” “Could you perhaps take us to the place you found the body?” Demi asked, quickly adding, “If you would be ok with going back there.” “Certainly.” Pitaressi nodded curtly, “We can go there now, follow me.”

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After a relatively short walk, the two officers were brought through an archway into a ring of small garages. The place had a very run-down feel to it, with cheap whitewash thin and patchy over the brickwork, and the large round tarmacked area in the middle cracked, weed-strewn and piled with rubbish. The garage in question appeared to have its door rusted into place in a half-open position, the two officers and their councillor escort having to duck underneath to get in. “You say you found the body?” Demi asked, looking impassive. The councillor nodded silently. “What exactly were you doing in here in the first place?” The Android probed, “It hardly seems like the sort of place you would be likely to stop in on out of the blue.” “I came here to look for him.” Corinne explained, “I received an urgent sounding call from the councillor’s brother, saying there was a family emergency. Mr Hutcheson wouldn’t answer his phone or his personal communicator, so I felt I had to come down here to find him. The estate’s head porter told me he’d seen him go in here, so that’s where I looked. He’d only recently been…” Pitaressi broke off, bringing her hand up to her face, the recollection apparently being too much for her. Demi did not seem to be moved by the new councillor’s emotional state. “After the police came to take away the body, I left everything else as it was, in case you came back again.” Pitaressi continued, gesturing around the grubby space. Sure enough, the television was still switched on. Unlike the previous case, however, this television was not displaying static but was broadcasting cartoons. “Do you think there is any significance to the set being tuned into the children’s channel?” Demi mused, watching as flash animated fish swam around the screen in a state of panic. “I always thought this was a rather insipid broadcast, what are we expecting children to learn from meaningless shows like this?” “I used to love Murray the Sea Cucumber…” Sophie said, slightly more defensively than she had meant, “I watched it all the time when I was little, I even had Murray pyjamas…” A raised eyebrow from her mentor was enough for Sophie to trail off. “Is there a message anywhere?” the android asked, “There was one last time, you may recall.” Sophie took a look and, sure enough, on the side of the television was a green post it note. “Thought you kids might appreciate if I left the cartoons on” Sophie read aloud. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “It seems rather suggestive to me.” Demi replied evasively, “The chances that this case is not related to the murder in Velhadrogahn have decreased significantly; I would put them at less than 0.05 now.” “But why this man?” Sophie probed, “and why right now? I wouldn’t have been surprised if something like this happened in Velhadrogahn in a few days, but there hadn’t been any similar cases outside of that city before.” “Councillor, did Mr Hutcheson have any dangerous enemies?” Demi asked, “Was he engaged in anything at the time of his death that might have incurred this demise?” “He’d been working with this housing estate.” Pitaressi replied stoically, “He recently approved a large grant for the residents to have their garages updated. The strange thing is, two weeks ago he was going to award funding for further work, but he changed his mind at the last minute.” “Do you think one of the residents might have taken umbrage at that?” Sophie asked. Her android co-worker looked at her impassively “If you are suggesting that Roberts lives here, and killed Hutcheson for not approving his garage extension then I am sorry to disappoint you, but it is never as easy as that.” She replied flatly. “Shame,” Sophie sighed, “that would have been really convenient, we’d have been able to narrow his address down to one estate, we could have had him arrested and taken the rest of the week off.” “Councillor, you mentioned that the police came to take the body away,” Demi interjected, “do you happen to remember which pathologist signed off on that?” “He was middle aged, had a beard,” Corinne replied, “I’m afraid I don’t remember his name but I have a receipt back at my office.” “That’s fine,” Sophie smiled, “we can pop back there now, there’s a few more things we’ll need to ask you, but I think we’re done here for now.” “Dunn, that was it!” Pitaressi exclaimed suddenly, “Doctor Dunn, I knew it would come back to me.”

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Once they had returned to the council headquarters, and checked that the Doctor’s name had, indeed, been Dunn, Pitaressi ran the two officers through all of the more formal details of Hutcheson’s activities over the last few months of his life, and provided them with copies of his official records and paperwork. “I haven’t been able to see anything wrong in these myself,” she explained, “but then I wasn’t hired for my mathematical prowess, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you found some discrepancy in there, with the number of grants he approves and cancels it’s quite hard to follow.” Thank you, Councillor, this should be very useful.” Sophie replied, as the two officers rose to leave. “Please, call me Corinne,” Pitaressi smiled, as she offered a hand to the young constable, “And anything else you need, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, my door’s always open.” “I just hope you can make your office more transparent than your predecessor.” Demi responded drily. “Well that is certainly my aim.” Corinne replied, “The council should work for the city, not the other way around, now that I have some clout in the council I might be able to do something about it.” “I’m sure you will.” Sophie added, “Thank you for your help, Corinne, it’s been lovely meeting you.”

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On the journey back to the station, Demi seemed somewhat irate with Sophie. “You are aware, I hope, that it is entirely possible that Councillor Pitaressi is responsible for this murder?” She asked, her voice rather more robotic than usual. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Sophie responded incredulously, “You said yourself that there is, what was it, a five percent chance of it not being Roberts? I’m pretty sure Corinne had nothing to do with it.” “She said herself that she stood to gain the most from Hutcheson’s death.” The android reasoned, “The fact that she told us that does not make it any less important a factor. In a case where we did not have the foreknowledge of Roberts’ presence, she would be our prime suspect.” “But we do know about Roberts.” Sophie argued. “That’s the whole point.” “But if you are to become a full time detective officer then you will be faced with situations just like this, where the outcome has not been predetermined as it has here. I am well aware that Councillor Pitaressi is a very personable and very attractive woman, but…” What does that have to do with it?” Sophie interrupted. “I am simply trying to advise you that in a murder case the witnesses and suspects are not there for us to make friends with.” Demi answered, a tinge of frustration creeping into the mechanical tones of her voice, “You cannot allow your judgement to be clouded by picking favourites, you must be objective. I am still your mentor, I feel like this is important advice to share.” “Duly noted.” Sophie replied bluntly, before the two fell under an uncomfortable silence. Sophie wasn’t sure if she was annoyed at Demi for being unreasonable, or because she knew that, really, the android had a point. And somewhere deep inside was a shamefully mean-spirited side of her that couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Demi was jealous. After days and days of having no reliable company but each other, perhaps the idea of Sophie finding a new friend bothered the android officer. Sophie couldn’t deny that Corinne had something about her that she found intrinsically likable; she seemed the sort of person Sophie could have been good friends with, in different circumstances.

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The uncomfortable atmosphere between the two was quickly dissipated when they returned to the police headquarters. There was little time for animosity when there was work to be done. As soon as they were back, Demi set to work looking up Doctor Dunn in the computer system. “I must admit, I have not met this ‘Dunn’, but his name sounds very familiar, do you know him?” the android asked, as she searched for the pathologist. “Wasn’t there a Geoff Dunn that was commander of the force before Dolabra?” Sophie replied, thinking back to her classes on recent police history from her days in the academy. “Yes, no wonder it sounded familiar.” Demi nodded, “Of course that is long before my time, there are few officers on the force in our own time who even worked under Dolabra, let alone Dunn.” “Perhaps the two are related?” Sophie suggested. “Entirely possible.” Demi agreed, “You can ask him that when we see him, if you wish, he is on-board the station just now so we can visit him immediately.”

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Doctor Dunn was, as Councillor Pitaressi had previously described him, a middle aged man, with a greying beard and receding hairline. His attire made him look more like an old professor at a university than a doctor. He spoke warmly, however, despite his austere appearance, and welcomed the two officers into his small office by the path-labs. “I’m afraid there isn’t much I can tell you about this particular case that couldn’t be determined from the crime scene.” Dunn sighed regretfully as the pair told him of their interest in the deceased Hutcheson, “The man was in rude health, aside from being dead. There was a single stab wound to the abdomen, rather expertly applied, I would say, it perforated several major arteries in one fell swoop, the fellow would have bled out almost instantly. There was an electrical cable looped tightly around his neck at the scene, but no evidence of strangulation, it would appear that that was for effect rather than anything else. Aside from that there isn’t a lot I can tell you, he wasn’t an imposter, or a clone or anything of that nature. We had a run of apparent murders a few years ago where the apparent victim had murdered someone else and made them up to look like themselves, to fake their own deaths, it was quite popular amongst disgraced officials for a while, but I know to check for that sort of thing. This case is as clear cut and as dull as a murder can be- although I don’t like to think of someone’s death as dull, of course.” “I had not realised he had had a cable looped around his neck.” Demi observed, recalling the notes she and Sophie had found in the evidence locker. “I can’t say I’m surprised.” Dunn mused, “The officers on the scene seemed pretty uninterested in the whole thing, I doubt they expected any investigation to come from it. I keep my own notes, of course, I like to be meticulous about these things. I must say, I’m glad to see that someone is making an effort; I’m guessing you’re new. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any female duty officers; it’ll do the place good to switch things up a bit.” “I certainly hope so.” Sophie sighed wistfully. “Do you know if the crime scene officers took any forensic evidence at the time?” “Nothing more than the token gesture.” Dunn replied disapprovingly, “And I doubt they’ll have held on to it this long, it’s been more than a week now. If you like, I could chase that up for you, send a few of my own chaps round to do another sweep.” “That would be wonderful.” Sophie smiled gratefully, “Before we go, there was one other thing we were wondering, a bit off topic, but are you related to Geoff Dunn at all?” “I am indeed.” Dunn replied with a smile, “He was my father. Always wanted me to become an officer, I suppose he hoped I’d take over from him, but it wasn’t really my scene. I was always more interested in medicine, I used to dash about all over the place providing emergency medicine, the pathology stuff was more a side-line to keep in with the old boy. I gave the medicine side of things up a few years ago, though.” “Why was that?” Sophie asked. “I was drafted out to Kharngorn, a little mountain town out in the back of beyond, about three years back,” Dunn reminisced, “They had some sort of psychosomatic epidemic, almost like a psychological plague, the local physician had been taken ill with it too, so I had to take over, but there was little I could do. So many people were left permanently damaged by it, a lot of them were very young. I remember a girl, no older than you,” he nodded to Sophie, “left with her mind reverted to that of a child, nothing I could do for her. It was pretty hard to take, the local Doctor had to take an early retirement, but I left as soon as his permanent replacement was available, I’ve been exclusively in pathology since then. Macabre though it might seem, it is more comforting to work with those who are no longer with us and cannot be saved than to treat the living and perpetually ask yourself if there might have been anything more you could have done.” Dunn was clearly feeling very pensive after this personal revelation, so the two officers bid him farewell and left him to his thoughts.

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“Well,” Demi reflected, as the two prepared to leave work for the night, “It would seem rather conclusive that Roberts is responsible for this incident so, provided he has made himself known to authorities already, we should be able to find him even under an alias, once the forensic team have done their work.” “What I don’t understand is why he killed Hutcheson, though.” Sophie mused, as they collected their short-range transport dials from the charger. They had not, as yet, been confident enough to try charging up the long-range dials they had brought with them; the risk of being caught and asked difficult questions about their origin, or just plain losing them, seemed too great for the time being. Sophie’s dial remained on its chain around her neck, in a highly depleted level of power. “The last time we did this,” She continued, “with Mr Colquhoun in Velhadrogahn, he had been killed because he’d been working for Roberts, and Roberts murdered him to tie up that loose end. But from what Corinne has been saying, Hutcheson has been in his office far too much of the time to have been involved in a heist or anything like that. There just isn’t a clear motive.” “We shall have to uncover that tomorrow.” Demi replied decisively, “We are unlikely to hear back from DNA analysis until the day after, so we shall have plenty of time to build up a good case against Roberts by the time we get his details out of the system.” Sophie nodded silently, although she was uneasy about quite how fine they were cutting it in terms of time. The two officers activated their travel dials and left the station for home.

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By the time they returned to Sophie’s home, her father seemed to have gone off to bed – unusual in and of itself, as the version of her father Sophie had known would always make sure to be up and about when Sophie returned for work, to offer tea and a sympathetic ear to the drama of the day - and there was no sign of Monica, save for a note tucked into the plant pot on the table by the door. It read; “Gone round to Dana’s, back late, don’t wait up, love M. X” Sophie sighed and folded up the note, tucking it behind the first one in the back of the picture frame in the hallway, wondering why exactly she was putting the notes there. With her head so full of details on that day’s case, however, there was no room to ponder on the strange things her subconscious was up to, and she tucked the thought away for later. Demi opted to run through her recharge cycle in the bed Sophie had made up on her bedroom floor, which Sophie was quite relieved about. With the chase for Roberts in such full swing, she was having visions of Demi sloping off into the night in Robocop mode and tracking Roberts down herself. Beyond the obvious dangers this would put her mentor in, she rather feared what might happen if the android succeeded and stopped Roberts single-handedly. The idea of being left behind, stuck in this new reality worried Sophie greatly. Although she had been able to adapt to the new situation, find her ideal employment and even make a few friends, it was not a world that she could be happy to remain in forever. She was surrounded by familiar faces that she hardly knew. This was not her world.

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Although her sister had evidently gotten in very late that night- late enough that Sophie had been in a sufficiently deep sleep as to have not heard her come in, Sophie found Monica up at the breakfast table when she came down, looking as tidy, as refreshed and chipper as Sophie had seen her in this timeline. “Get everything sorted with Dana?” Sophie asked her sister, as she made herself a cup of coffee. “It wasn’t easy, but we got there in the end.” Monica grinned, tucking rather sloppily into a jammy piece of toast. “That girl is the walking definition of boyfriend troubles, but she’s managed to turn things around. Got to love a happy ending.” “I’d drink to that” Sophie replied, taking a gulp of her coffee, which was somewhat excessively strong. “You don’t seem to be doing so badly yourself, Soph”, Monica replied with a cheeky wink. “What do you mean?” Sophie asked, confused. “Come on,” Monica relied playfully, “I might have been out a lot recently, but it hasn’t escaped my attention that we have an extra person staying in our house at the moment, a certain guest of yours who came bearing gifts a few days ago.” “No, it’s nothing like that…” Sophie began to explain before Monica interrupted “And you seem to be carrying handcuffs around with you these days, so I can only guess as to what you two have been up to.” The younger girl teased. “Hey, I’m not judging,” she added hastily, “She’s a good catch, I’m sure you could do a lot worse.” “That doesn’t really sound like a compliment…” Sophie mused, “Anyway, it’s nothing like that, I think we kind of need to keep our relationship entirely professional. To be honest, I find it hard to imagine her in any other kind of relationship; she’s not the type to get emotionally attached in that way. So what was going on with Dana, then?” Sophie quickly changed the subject. “Oh, right,” Monica responded “well she’s been going out with Pimples Patterson, you remember Pimples, don’t you?” Sophie had no idea who this was, so hazarded a guess, saying “Was he the one with all the spots?” “That’s the one.” Monica nodded, “Well he’s a few years older than she is, and he got his own flat about a year ago. He was always complaining that the rent was too high, so Dana said she’d move in with him and pay half of the rent. This goes on for a while, and then suddenly he just up and disappears, turns out his grandad left had him that flat, so there was no rent, she’d given him thousands, and he just sneaked off, sold the flat, and now he’s goodness knows where, living off the proceeds. I mean obviously there are different levels of horrible, but that is pretty awful, you have to admit.” “You’re right, that is horrible.” Sophie agreed, remembering Dana as the young girl her sister had played with when she’d been in primary school, it was hard to imagine her in a situation such as this. But something about her sister’s story had an odd resonance, as if rekindling an ignored memory from the back of her mind. “Oh my goodness, of course, that’s it!” she exclaimed, jumping to her feet “Monica you’re a genius!” Sophie planted a kiss on her sister’s forehead before heading for the kitchen door. “I’m not going to disagree with you on that, but what exactly did I say?” Monica asked, confused at Sophie’s sudden excitement. “It was the garages…” Sophie said elatedly, ignoring her sister’s confused face “I need to talk to Demi.” And with that, she ran to fetch her mentor, so she could explain what she had just realised.

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“Will you please slow down and explain this to me properly.” Demi said irately. Having been dragged only half-dressed from Sophie’s house and had an overly excited explanation garbled to her as she tried to finish putting on her jumpsuit, all while Sophie pulled her along the street to the area where the transport disk would activate, she was still none the wiser as to what had gotten Sophie so excited, beyond the fact that it was to do with the murder in the garages. “But it’s all really very simple.” Sophie replied as her android friend zipped up her police jumpsuit, just in time for the two to beam on-board the police station, “I was sure there was something obvious that we were missing,” Sophie continued, as they made their way to the evidence locker where they were keeping their notes on the case, “We knew pretty much right-off that it was Roberts, but we couldn’t see any reason for him to have killed Councillor Hutcheson. And then I realised, it was something my sister said at breakfast, all those grants for upgrading the garages, we knew that he approved at least one to renovate the entire scheme, it was in Corinne’s records.” “I remember that,” Demi nodded, “What of it?” “Well don’t you see,” Sophie pressed, “He granted funding for the garages to be fixed up… so where did it go? Because it certainly wasn’t spent on the garages, remember the state they were in? No-one’s run any repairs on those in the last decade at least, I should think.” “So you are saying that Hutcheson passed a council grant for work that was not done,” Demi replied, “and what, he has been giving the money he embezzled to Roberts?” “That’s right.” Sophie nodded. “I suppose it makes sense,” Demi mused, “Councillor Pitaressi did say that he rarely followed up on his promises, and from what we knew of Roberts in our own timeline he would be the sort of person to find corrupt public figures and take advantage of them. And if he pulled out of approving further grant money for Roberts- which we know he did, the further grants were cancelled- then that would be our motive for the murder. We just need the forensic evidence and we are…” Demi trailed off as they got to the evidence locker, where a group of about five helmeted officers were rooting through the paperwork in the filing cabinets, emptying much of that and several items into black bin bags. “What’s going on here?” Sophie asked, as a burly officer blocked their entrance from the locker. “Ah, there you are, I’ve been waiting for you two,” came a voice from behind them. Turning around, they saw their Duty Sergeant Dunoon poking his head from a door a little way up the hallway. “I’m sorry about this, but your investigation has been blocked by order of Dolabra himself, you’ve upset some very powerful people by looking into this Jaheeb councillor’s death. I did try to warn you about investigating undeclared crimes… but this is always what happens with new recruits, always with the fresh faced optimistic enthusiasm, I can’t blame you, I used to be like that too.” “But we can’t let this go unresolved!” Sophie protested, “The killer is a very dangerous man, he has to be arrested now before he can do anything else.” “I’m sorry.” Dunoon repeated, “But it’s out of my hands. You’re lucky they’ve let you off with just pulling you off the case, it could have been a lot worse if they’d let the forensics stuff get to the labs, Doctor Dunn should have known better than that, really.” “No, this is ridiculous, I’m going to give Dolabra a piece of my mind…” Sophie said angrily, turning on her heel and storming down the corridor towards the stairs, leaving her mentor and her duty sergeant standing flabbergasted behind her. “Please don’t do anything foolish!” Dunoon called after her, as Demi ran to keep up. “I must advise against this,” the android said levelly, “We have not been working here long enough to warrant questioning the commander’s orders.” “To hell with the commander’s orders!” Sophie snapped, not slowing her pace as she ascended the stairs, “If we don’t arrest Roberts now then how are we supposed to stop him going back in time and doing this all over again? We’ve not come all this way just to let Dolabra stop us now.” “I appreciate your concerns, but you are letting your emotions cloud your judgement.” Demi responded, maintaining her composure, “As long as we have our jobs here we have options, if need be we could use our position to apprehend Roberts at the scene on Friday, you just need to accept that this avenue has been blocked.” Sophie ignored this, and brushed right past her mentor into the management corridor at the top of the stairs.

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“Why have you cut off my investigation?” Sophie burst into Dolabra’s office unannounced, much to the protests of his secretary. “Excuse me, young lady, but you seem to be forgetting your place.” Dolabra retorted, his face redder than usual at the intrusion. “My place has nothing to do with it,” Sophie replied brashly, “I was doing my job, tracking down a dangerous criminal who had killed a public figure, and I had just about caught him when you sent your goon squad in to throw it all away, I want to know why.” “It’s precisely because you had almost solved it that I stopped you.” Dolabra replied, his voice low and laced with barely suppressed rage, “I’m sure your head is full of idealistic nonsense about catching the bad guys, but the world simply isn’t like that. Now I’m aware that you saved my life a few days ago, but even that sort of gratitude will only get you so far, you don’t have carte blanche to come storming in here for a tantrum any time things don’t go your way. Now get out of my office and do your damn job or I’ll have you demoted down to answering the phones along with the rest of the little girls.” “Commander, please, you need to let me arrest this man.” Sophie implored, changing tact a little, “His name is Roberts, he’s got a big scar right across his face and he’s incredibly dangerous, if we don’t arrest him now then things are just going to get worse.” For a moment, Sophie thought this calmer approach had worked, a flicker of uncertainty seeming to pass over his face for a moment. But the moment passed, and the commander’s face curled in rage once more. “Get out of my office!” he barked, and Sophie backed her way out of the room, knowing that, for now at least, she had been defeated.

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Last edited by bad geminton on Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
Do you know who I miss? That guy with the potatoes, let's bring him back...


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