Radar Station

As promised here, this is an early “iteration” of Kicking Concrete when Davy was still a man. I titled it Radar Station but no such place occurs in the story. The title stuck.

I followed my platoon back toward the elevator hatch. Our work up here on topside was done. We’d caught Alvin de Marco and we’d tried to take him alive. As is usual with his kind, he fought, he cursed, he struggled, and he committed suicide.

His now-rapidly cooling cadaver was subject to the prolonged decay of topside. I knew enough about topside to know that the normal organisms that effected putrefaction were absent. It was far too toxic even for them to eke out a living.

As such, de Marco’s body would eventually look like boiled leather as the poisons in the air tanned and cured his skin.

Even through the ventilator mask, I could smell the reek of strong hydrocarbon compounds. My Geiger counter told me that there was five times as much radiation up here than was acceptable to a human being. It was damned cold as well, although it was mid-afternoon in terrestrial springtime. Windy as well. Nothing lived up here. Not a damned thing.

The ambient temperature was 265 Kelvin. I peered around me; it was like seeing a world through green gelatine. I could only see out to five hundred metres or so. There were some hills to the north, grey and murky in the sick green light.

Every time that I’d come up here, I’d tried to find the Sun. Not a chance. Wherever it was in the sky, it was well hidden by the oily brown cloud decks that churned above.

We reached the hatch and unlocked the gate to the elevator. I held my hands over my ears to drown out the sound of the air scrubbers that were nearby. That didn’t block out the earth-shaking throbbing they made though. We chatted among ourselves in the thirty minutes it took the elevator to reach Zona Rosa.

No sooner had I got out of the elevator than my good friend Simon Rayment spotted me; a big grin on his girlish face. “Your boss wants to see you.”

I whistled through my teeth. These excursions by the Blue Legion topside were getting more frequent. Who the hell was letting them in the elevators? No doubt, I would hear one of Doull’s vicious lectures on the subject.

I ignored Rayment’s attempt at conversation as we went along to HQ. Conversation meaning jibes at our burgeoning Blue Legion problems. Not that a transit policeman like Rayment would know what to do with rebels and insurrectionists anyhow. Catching kids jumping trains was his more his thing.

Rayment left me at Doull’s office with a smirk. “Meet you at the Caledonian at 1900. Be there please, Davy.” He saluted me and went his way.

I rapped on Doull’s door.

“Come in here,” my boss called out.

I went in and stood politely at attention before Major Iain Doull. His pallid fat face looked up at me. “Did you interrogate your prisoner?”

“Yes, but he didn’t tell us much of worth, sir. They never do.”

Doull sniffed. “I take it you did try the usual methods, and some of the not-so usual ones? What did he have in his possession?”

“We did try, yes. Like all Legion people, he was addled and wouldn’t tell us anything coherent. As for belongings, he wasn’t carrying anything. Only the clothes on his back. No kits, no keys, no maps or anything.”

“What did he tell you?”

“The usual sir; that we’re all evil to stop him from going topside, we’re all going to die down here in the dark and we’re all destined to live under the sun again. Not in that order, but that was the gist of what comments he did make.”

Doull sifted through some papers and glanced at me. “At ease, get a drink or something.”

“Yes sir.” I got myself a glass of water and waited for my boss’s next move.

“Persaud, we have issues here. Major issues. The Legion is growing bold and daring. They flaunt themselves before us. They are a virulent little infection that promises to become a big infection. A pandemic. You know we still have no real idea why they are rebelling. What their cause is. You know something? I don’t fucking care. My job is to keep order, not to puzzle out political unhappiness. If the Arx tell me to tread on something, I do it with both feet. But the Arx is agitated. They want to know how an ordinary no-name citizen like Alvin de Marco can find an elevator, defeat its security and make his drug-addicted way topside. They want to know why. There’s nothing topside that’d interest a sane human being. Cloud, smog and rain and nothing else.”

“It’s been rumoured, sir, that the Legion feel it’s their right to die under the sun. What sun they hope to see is anyone’s guess.”

Doull laughed. “Yeah, I’ve heard that. I’ve heard all the stories and theories about reclaiming topside for humanity, breathing the Divine’s air and all that bullshit. And it is bullshit. The reality of it is that we can’t live topside. The Legion knows this. They know there’s no sun to be seen, as you say. The fucker is obscured by poison fucking clouds. The place is a wasteland.” Doull got up and faced the wall behind his desk.

I voiced an opinion. “Sir, if that’s true, perhaps it’s in our interests to let them all up there and be done with them.”

Doull nodded slowly. “Persaud, that line of thinking is anathema to the Arx. They don’t give in to the demands of freaks and fanatics. You are asking them to do that.”

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, sir. We go to great lengths to follow the Legion when they appear, track them down and liquidate them. A lot of time and expense could be saved if we just let them all go topside. Despite all the videos and documentaries on the lethality of topside, they’re still hell-bent on getting up there. So I say: let them go.”

Doull sat down again and rubbed his chin. “We’ve dropped leaflets and put out newscasts on topside conditions to the Legion. We’ve shown them repeatedly how fucking unliveable and toxic the freaking place is, but like all good mindless fanatics, they continue to fight us and pursue their ends. You know that none of what is up there is a state secret. It’s common fucking knowledge. Any dickhead with a computer or a television can watch programs about it and learn something.”

I knew this. I’d fought members of the Legion and I could honestly describe none of them as rational or reasonable. For all their psychotic madness, some implacable force drove them. From interviews I’d done with few we’d caught, I could tell they were driven. Whatever belief or creed they stuck to, it prodded them along at high speed. Single-minded, for sure and suicidal, to boot.

“Something else, Persaud. We’ve survived down here for centuries and made our lives here because we stuck together and did things together. The Arx aren’t going to tolerate a rag-tag bunch of sybarites like the Blue Legion fracturing that unity, not unless there is a major change in political thinking.” Doull wagged his index finger at me. “Likewise, none of my marshals are going to voice contrary thoughts.” He held my gaze for sometime. I nodded consensually.

“OK. The reality of the situation is this,” Doull said. “How did de Marco know the location of an elevator and where did he get the expertise to bypass its security. This fucking scares me Persaud. The de Marco fool had access to Grade E security classifications. Grade fucking E! I have to jump through a billion hoops just to get travel codes for legitimate topside elevators and this guy from the Marie Galante slums can find one, crack the protocols and ride his merry arse up to the top. And you tell me he wasn’t carrying a damn thing. I’ve gone over his background and his known associates with a fine toothed comb. He’s your average nobody, Persaud. He was a short order cook at some slop house in MG. No record of him taking computing classes, no interest in cryptography from what we can tell from his online access, and his IQ was below average.”

“Did his association with the Legion teach him these skills, sir?”

“Find that out for us Persaud, and you’ll retire on a superannuation so fat you won’t be able to carry it. We don’t know. Covert has people in MG. They can’t ascertain a damn thing. Nobody seems to recollect Alvin de Marco having any association with anyone outside of his own circle of family and friends. In fact, his movements before taking the elevator topside can be traced. Nothing untoward. Completely harmless and legitimate. It’s like he was thunderstruck with this knowledge. Came out of nowhere and entered his plebeian head.

“That’s what bothers us and the Arx so much.” Doull blew out his cheeks. “Just between you and me Persaud and this goes no further. Your idea about letting all of them go topside has been offered to them. The Arx quietly wanted them out of the way. None of them took the Arx up on it; in fact none of them even so much as whispered a no fucking thank you. The Arx got silence for an answer.”

“I see, sir.”

Doull got up and started to pace again. “So, here we are. All we can do is catch them and bust them after the deed has been done. Our efforts to identify the Blue Legion before they go on their rampages have been fruitless. It’s like they wake up and say to themselves that today, I will be the biggest bad arse this side of New Zihuatanejo and probably the other fucking side as well. It’s like trying to catch shadows with a mouse-trap.”

“Has any profiling been done? Are there indicators on what sort of people are susceptible to being Legionnaires?”

Doull laughed. “You’re kidding, right? It’s impossible to profile someone we don’t know will turn into a Legionnaire. There’s no pattern to the madness. We’re good Persaud, but ESP isn’t a skill we’re fucking adept at. Like I said, it’s all after the fact. Hell, you know this.”

“Well sir, in light of this, I’m curious to know what you want me to do. I’m not Covert, I have no training at covert operations.”

“I know this. You’re my second-in-command. I’m imparting my thoughts on this sorry situation. Getting it off my chest. But I will tell you this. You aren’t to liquidate any more of them. You are to capture and take them prisoner. Sedate them before they kill themselves. That order comes straight from the House and is to be followed to perfection. The Arx obviously thinks it can get all the information they need from a live one.”

I had to laugh. “Sir, they’re wasting their time unless they know something we don’t.”

“They always know something we fucking don’t. That’s a given. Hell knows what they think they can achieve with a live one. Maybe they have some way they can keep them alive and coerce the truth from them.” Doull snorted in derision. “Good fucking luck; I never did believe in magic.” He stopped pacing and faced me. “Get that order out and see to it none of you kill one. The Arx want a live one and we’ll give them one. That’ll be all Persaud, take it easy.”

“Yes sir.”

He got me before I made it out the door. “But let me leave you with this cute little parting thought. We’re up against a huge unknown here. A huge unknown that threatens to ruin everything we’ve struggled for. We’ve given them the way out and got nary a boo in return. They’ve picked a fight with us and that’s what they’re getting back.”

I left Doull’s office and headed towards my own, several blocks away. It was still darker than normal. High, high up to my right, one of the main ceiling lights had busted and none of the Crew had gotten around to repairing it yet. Still, being a kilometre above the floor, I wouldn’t be so keen on fixing it either. I had heard that getting to those lights wasn’t safe or convenient.

The Crew had installed a bunch of stopgap lights around this part of Zona Rosa to make up for it. Still, at about 1900 hours, they’d all go dark save for the glow lamps. At that time I would be at the Caledonian and not really caring a whole lot about law enforcement.

My first lieutenant met me in my office when I got back. “How was the journey topside?”

“Smooth and efficient.”

Lt. Lysa Grommand snickered at me. “Probably went a lot smoother than the roasting you got from the boss.”

“What roasting? Doull had no reason to roast me.”

“Makes a change.”

I found I was in no mood to discuss Doull or anything else with Lysa. As much as I liked the girl, I found her an unprofessional and unfocussed marshal. It was no secret she was here due to her surname. Three Grommands sat on the Arx and several more owned vivariums and plantations over in Marie Galante.

“Come on, what was topside like?”

“The usual. Overcast, cold, green.”

The inevitable raised its head again. “I don’t understand why I can’t go on a team topside. Every time someone breaches the elevators I never get called up on a team.”

“I have an assigned platoon Lysa. You need to be on it and you aren’t and to forestall your next question, neither me or anyone I know can pull it for you, not even Doull.”

Lysa pouted and swivelled on her chair. “You’re off-colour today. Nothing I’ve done, I hope. I have big things happening for me tonight. Really big things.” She bit her bottom lip and stated at the floor. I was going to ask her what the problem was, but thought better of it.

“Don’t you have work, Lieutenant? I have no real desire to have a heart to heart with you.”

I ignored the scowl I got. Without further comment, Lysa left my office, slamming the door as she went. It occurred to me then that she was in dire need of a good spank, probably just like any other spoiled brat.

My meeting with Doull had left me cold. His assertion that there was no reason or pattern to whom was a Legionnaire was disturbing. Hell, even Lysa could turn into one. As I reflected on it, that’s how it happened. People seemed to turn into them. None of our intelligence had ever detected any association, meetings or hideouts. They never operated as a unit or a cell. They were always alone. Like Doull had said, they woke up and became Legion spontaneously.

I telephoned the Marie Galante precinct.

The pale and morose face of the female desk sergeant looked back at me indifferently. “Sir, this is Marie Galante HQ, Sergeant Wallgrove.”

“Sergeant, I’m Captain Davy Persaud, Zona Rosa precinct. May I speak with someone on the de Marco case?”

“Sir, that’s been handed over to Covert. We no longer have anything.”

“Shit. Is anyone from Covert there right now?”

“No sir, they’ve returned to the House.”

“OK, thank you Sergeant.”

I leaned back in my chair and thought for a bit. I remembered Doull’s order and broadcast it. Not too long after I could hear the sounds of protest from outside my door. I couldn’t help but laugh.

At about 1730 I left the precinct and went home. As always, I was accompanied part of the way by Lysa.

“Davy, I hate to pry, but something’s up with you. If there’s anything you want to talk about.”

“I’m going to the Caledonian to catch up with Simon. You’re welcome to join us.”

Lysa cooed in approval. “As it happens, I was heading to the Caledonian tonight anyway. I love that place. It has the best zotari dances anywhere, even better than the ones along Via Vercuriad. .”

“The ones there are usually high on some stimulant. I’ve arrested enough of them to know that much.”

“Damn, and I thought it was talent.”

“So did they. I’ll meet you in the Hyades Room there. Tell Korda you’re with us and he’ll let you in.”

Lysa took the eastern walkway and soon was out of my sight. Not too long after I arrived home.

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