Author's Note: A big vote of thanks to Strife Aileron for editing this as
well as providing many suggestions for improving this story. If I ever do
decide to try writing a novel again, I'll be calling on you first
Chasers 2075: Zero-One
"Well, that was a complete fuck-up," Kate Williams snarled irritably.
She casually tossed the file on top of the big desk; almost as if
Kate didn't really care about them at all, but her dark brown eyes were
pained; haunted by something. The sandy-haired young woman, dressed in
battered pants, a ragged T-shirt and an official department jacket, looked
so weary. It might have been that she was dieting, or it might be that she
was ill, but she did not look good.
The office that they stood in was quite old fashioned, in a way.
Instead of a holographic wall set to depict whatever scenes the owner might
desire, the wall was covered from top to bottom with photos, plaques,
medals and commendations. Many of the photos included the Asian woman who
was sitting behind the desk, accepting those many awards and commendations
with that same cool and collected smile.
Gwen Musashi looked up at her subordinate, taking in her generally
ragged condition, trying to hide her worry. She took the file, the elegant
Asian woman's dark eyes narrowed slightly as she ran through all the
various sheets and quickly soaking up the facts that were printed on them.
"What went wrong?" Gwen asked her calmly as she read.
"What exactly didn't go wrong?" Kate shot back as she ran a hand
through her brown hair tiredly. "Beth tried to subdue the android just
like the manufacturer requested," she explained irritably, "she got cold
cocked by the damn thing, and then it broke away from the two of
us and into a crowd."
Gwen nodded, "After which you shot it down."
"Yes, I did," Kate agreed. She closed her eyes for a moment,
remembering sighting at the thing's exposed back. She'd quickly pulled the
trigger of her handgun twice, nailing it on the bottom of the spine and
base of the neck, stopping it cold.
"There's not very many officers who could have made that shot at such
a great distance," Gwen noted thoughtfully. "And it's not all that bad,"
she finally said as she put the file down, "you did get the android, after
Kate sat down with a soft thump in the chair across from Gwen, her
brown hair falling into her eyes. "Don't coddle me Gwen," she shot back
angrily, "I let it get away from me, and innocent people nearly paid the
price for my screw up!"
"Maybe," Gwen said quietly. She looked up to meet Kate's eyes, "I
also know that you've been the only officer going out most of the time,
you're working yourself down to the wire and I'm partially the one
responsible for that."
"You're too high ranked to go out normally," Kate shrugged wearily,
"and we both know Beth isn't very suited to go out on field operations."
"She's not so bad," Gwen pointed out weakly, "as long as she's
Kate sighed to herself softly, not trusting herself to say anything
more about it. Elizabeth Harris was a good kid, the sort of technical type
who helped keep any major organization running smoothly. The little
redhead was incredible with her computers, if you needed any kind of
information she could get it, usually within moments. She also had a knack
with weapons, helping build the special weapons they needed for their jobs.
But as a police officer, Beth was a just bit more limited. She could
handle her handgun as well as any other officer, but she seemed to lack the
sort of instincts that a cop needed to have out in the field. Paired up
with another officer she did just fine, but on her own she was an accident
waiting to happen. An accident that both women sitting in the office badly
wanted to avoid.
"She certainly tries," Gwen offered into the silence.
"Maybe, but right now," Kate sighed tiredly, "we're down to two and a
half officers." She looked up and gave Gwen a weary smile, "No offense
"None taken," Gwen answered, but deep inside she felt a flash of
irritation. What she wanted to be was out in the field, but since
organizing the special police unit nicknamed the Chasers, she had been
firmly stuck behind a desk. Intellectually, she understood the reasoning
behind it, her being one of the few real experts on android crime meant
that she had to be available to the brass and other units, but emotionally,
it still hurt.
Gwen got up out of her comfortable chair, her crisp, blue business
suit hugging her slim form as she walked towards the window. She looked out
at the towers that surrounded them on all sides, and for a moment, wished
that she could see blue sky. "We might just have a solution to our problem,
however," she said without turning around.
"You finally got official permission to bring in another officer?"
Kate asked, sitting up in her chair in honest surprise. She snorted and
said, "I thought those paper-pushers would have taken a few more weeks to
deal with it just on general principles."
"It's been months," Gwen bitterly said as she continued to look out
at the city, "I put in the request before Lynn..."
"Ah," Kate's voice was quiet.
"When does your court ordered psych exams start?" Gwen asked into the
"A week," Kate sounded positively disgusted at the idea as she said,
"but I was hoping you might be able to get me out of them, Gwen."
"No such luck," Gwen said as she turned back to Kate with a soft
sigh. "They sent over the name of the psychiatrist you'll be seeing," she
walked over to hand Kate a card she pulled out of her pocket.
"Dr. Alexis Jameson?" Kate read it curiously. She put it away in her
pocket with a sigh before getting up out of her chair. "I'm going to go out
and check on how Beth is doing, and then take a break," she said,
stretching out awkwardly.
"Go get some coffee," Gwen agreed, "and grab some food." Kate gave
her a casual wave as she left, and Gwen watched her go worriedly.
* * * * *
The hallways were oddly quiet as Kate made her way towards the break
room, where she poured a cup of strong, black coffee for herself. She added
sugar and whitener, then took a deep pull on it, trying to kick herself
back awake. Kate sipped at it when she went to the control room, seeing her
friend sitting at the computer terminals, a cold pack pressed to the side
of her face.
"Sorry, Kate," Beth apologized, smiled weakly.
The little computer tech looked oddly fragile sitting in the large
office chair, Beth's normally pale skin now almost chalky and her hands
shook slightly. All around her, the computer terminals worked, information
on registered android activity scrolling on their screens. Multiple
keyboards, a VR interface rig, and a few items that Kate strongly suspected
were gray, or even black market hacker gear were all ready to go.
'It was probably a lot closer to danger than she usually gets,' Kate
silently mused as she walked over to stand by the redhead's side. She stood
there awkwardly for a few moments before finally saying, "It wasn't your
"You would never have gotten suckered that way," Beth sighed, wincing
slightly as she pressed the cold pack to the side of her face.
"That's because I don't trust anybody," Kate said entirely seriously.
Beth sighed softly, "Maybe I should start trying that."
"It wouldn't suit you," Kate pointed out gently. She frowned down at
Beth, "You took your pain-tabs and the anti-inflamitaries?"
"Yes, mother," Beth teased, smiled up at her wryly with green eyes
twinkling. She took a deep breath, "I'll try not to screw up like that
"There's some good news," Kate said, deliberately changing the
subject, "Gwen's got a new officer coming in."
"About time," Beth burst out, "we've been short ever since..." Beth
trailed off, the look on Kate's face stopping her. "Sorry, Kate," she said
"Yeah," Kate pushed off from where she was leaning against the side
of Beth's desk. She gave the girl a weak smile, "I'm going to go get
something to eat, you want anything?"
"I'm fine," Beth sighed, watching Kate walk away. The miracles of
modern medicine would make sure there were no signs of this incident on her
tomorrow, no bruises even. Too bad there wasn't something to help Kate deal
with her problems so easily.
* * * * *
Over in her office, Gwen found her thoughts going in similar
directions. If Kate kept pushing herself as hard as she was, she would
snap. It was only a matter of time. 'Which means I need to get another
officer in here to back her up soon,' Gwen thought firmly.
Gwen leaned over her desk, clearing the old fashioned papers away.
"Computer," she said calmly, watching as the top of the desk glowed to
life. The holographic screen floated in front of her, her personalized
icons hanging in space.
"How can I be of service, madam?" the computer asked, it's clearly
female voice pitched to be as gentle and soothing as possible.
"List transfer requests to Police Special Operations Unit, commonly
referred to as Chasers," Gwen phrased her request carefully. Computers were
good, but an inaccurately phrased request could produce some very
"Transfer requests, listed in reverse chronological order," the
computer agreed, a list of twenty names and thumbnail images appearing in
the air before her.
"Clear all demerit transfers," Gwen ordered.
The computer sounded a bit confused as it answered her, "There are no
demerit transfers presently listed."
Gwen nodded thoughtfully and rephrased the command, "Then clear all
officers who received demerits or punitive action within a month of the
"Four officers remaining," the computer reported.
Gwen looked at the listing, taking in the two female and two male
officers. She tapped on each image, quickly running through the listings
there. Three of them had more varied personal records, with some demerits
and commendations mixed together. The final officer had a remarkably clear
record, a list of commendations and awards both from the police and the
"Were there any volunteers?" Gwen asked curiously.
"One," the computer reported.
Somehow, Gwen wasn't too surprised to see that the volunteer was also
the one with the exemplary record. She tapped on the thumbnail image,
bringing a face and name up in a larger scale. The blonde haired woman
shown there was oddly beautiful, her clear blue eyes gazing out with an odd
look of sincerity.
"Jennifer Grayson," Gwen murmured to herself softly, sitting back in
her chair to look at the image thoughtfully.
* * * * *
In another part of the city, a tall blonde answered a telephone,
listening to the person with an odd look on her face. The older woman's
image in her video-screen grew increasingly peeved as the young woman
answered her politely, "No, I'm sorry we can't do something about the
sexaroid that your husband bought. I'm sorry that he's been neglecting you,
but that's not illegal. No, I don't think the Chasers will destroy a
sexaroid for causing your husband to get a sore back..."
There was a sudden loud noise as the caller hung up on her
forcefully. "Poor baby," the officer who was sitting at the next desk over
gave her a sympathetic smile. She leaned towards the blonde to ask,
"Jennifer, you sure you want to transfer over to the Chasers? You might
have to deal with stuff like that all the time."
"Gee, thanks, Terry," Jennifer Grayson said, gave her friend a weak
The dark haired Latino woman was attractive; Terry's browned skin
almost completely unblemished. The uniform blues she wore looked really
good on the shapely young woman, but then again almost anything looked good
on her. At least, in Jennifer's opinion.
"You know what I mean," Terry Ramos said casually. She looked over at
her friend; the blonde's uniform was perfectly crisp, like she'd just
stepped off a recruiting poster, but then again, she always did. Dropping
her voice she asked, "Why do you want to join the Chasers?"
"It's not that hard to figure out," Jennifer murmured as she ran
through files on her computer, finishing off some of her paperwork, "the
Police Special Operations Unit is where the real action is."
"Yeah," Terry shook her head, "you're nuts."
The door to the division head's office suddenly slammed open, and a
gray-haired, older man stuck his head out. He looked around before
Jennifer exchanged a worried look with Terry before jumping to her
feet. She smoothed out her jacket, made sure her dress pants were straight,
then went to the office and tapped on the door, entering when she heard the
call to come in.
"Detective Grayson reporting as ordered, Captain Samuels," Jennifer
stated, coming to attention just inside the office.
Sitting in the comfortable chair in front of Samuels' desk that was
normally saved for visiting officials, was a sophisticated looking Asian
woman. She was striking; dressed in one of the best quality suits Jennifer
had ever seen. Her long, black hair flowed over her shoulders in glossy
waves, her eyes dark and piercing.
"Grayson," the older man said coolly, "this is Gwen Musashi, the
chief of the Police Special Operations Unit."
"It's nice to meet you," Gwen got up out of her chair, offering her
hand. Jennifer took it reflexedly, matching the woman squeeze for squeeze.
"It seems," her superior gave Jennifer a clearly disapproving look as
he continued, "that Section-Chief Musashi is here to discuss an application
you put in to transfer to her unit." A pause, "Something that was news to
"I apologize, Sir," Jennifer apologized.
"It shouldn't take long," Gwen said smoothly, "if I can have her for
half an hour, we should be able to get the interview completed."
Realizing that there wasn't very much he could actually do about it,
Samuels sullenly agreed, "You have half an hour, then."
"Come with me," Gwen rose smoothly.
Gwen was out the door almost before Jennifer could stumble after her.
With remarkable ease; Gwen navigated through the maze of desks and work
stations, quickly reaching the hallway. She paused to let Jennifer catch
up, then she continued on to the end of the long hall and out to the
balcony on that level. A few plants struggled to survive in the dim light,
with a couple of benches and a few ashtrays of various types scattered
On all sides the massive city rose up around the two of them. The
only reason they recieved any sunlight was that they were on a middle
level. The towers of the wealthy elite rising up above them like silvery
needles, and far below them the sun deprived old city which the newer city
was built over top of. The poor lived down there, and those that didn't
want to be found.
Gwen walked over to the edge, leaning on the railing to watch cars on
the elevated highways moving between buildings and levels. They stood
silently for a few moments before Jennifer finally ventured, "It's an honor
to meet you."
"Thanks," Gwen answered simply. Casually she asked, "So why do you
want to join the Chasers?"
"Huh? I. ?" Jennifer blinked, startled by the sudden question.
"I checked out your record before I came here, Jennifer Grayson,"
Gwen said, continuing to look out at the city, "even called up some of your
other commanders to see what kind of officer you are. No one had anything
bad to say about you."
"Thank you," Jennifer murmured, a bit of a blush on her cheeks.
"What I don't know is why an officer with that kind of record want to
join my command? We do all the dirty work, the dangerous jobs that other
police aren't equipped or even trained to do." Gwen finally looked over at
Jennifer, the beautiful woman's gaze piercing as she repeated, "Why do you
want to join the Police Special Operations Unit?"
Jennifer met those eyes and confidently stated, "Because I want to
help people, and I think the Police Special Operations Unit are the best
way to do that. Normal police are just traffic wardens and social workers,
but your people are the ones who actually help people."
"That wasn't a rehearsed answer," Gwen said, nodding thoughtfully.
"No, it wasn't rehearsed," Jennifer quietly agreed, nervously
wondering if she had just put her foot in it big time.
Gwen pulled a perso-comp from her coat pocket, tapping it on and then
accessing a set of files. She keyed something in, "I just approved your
Jennifer's eyes widened, "What? Are you sure.?"
"Looking at your file very nearly decided me," Gwen said, putting the
slim computer away into a pocket before continuing, "meeting you in person
finished it." She raised an eyebrow, "Unless you're having second
"No, ma'am," Jennifer said, shaking her head.
"Good," Gwen said, taking a set of papers from another pocket,
"you'll report to our section of the police complex tomorrow morning, 0800
hours. We'll have an officer waiting there to help fit you out for your
weapon, and begin your training."
"I'll be there," Jennifer nodded, standing at attention.
"Relax, you're not working for me just yet," Gwen said. She smiled
slightly as she said, "Oh, we don't do uniforms in the Chasers. Business
formal clothing, more or less."
"Right," Jennifer said, blushing.
Gwen ran a hand through her dark hair, "Now for the fun part."
"Hm?" Jennifer looked at her in surprise.
"You're boss isn't going to be very happy about losing an officer of
your caliber, I can just tell," Gwen said dryly.
Jennifer nodded glumly, "True."
Gwen gave her a sympathetic smile, "You want me for back up?"
Jennifer hesitated, but there was only a sincere willingness to help
in Gwen's manner. "I'd appreciate it," she admitted.
Samuels actually took it pretty well, overall. He was clearly
disappointed when the two walked into his office to let him know that
Jennifer was indeed transfering, but he looked like he was almost expecting
it. He offered Jennifer his congratulations, and added yet another piece of
glowing praise to her personnel file. Gwen left with a reminder of her
morning appointment, and Jennifer went to clean out her desk.
And break it to Terry.
"You're transferring?! Now?" Terry Ramos blurted, looking at Jennifer
"Section-Chief Musashi already approved it," Jennifer sais with a
smile, shaking her head in admiration. "The woman is incredible," she
"You were one of the few partners I've had that I could actually
tolerate, damn it," Terry complained good-naturedly.
"I'm sure you'll break in a new partner soon enough," Jennifer
assured as she packed all her personal items away into a large cube.
"Yeah, you're right about that," Terry sighed.
"And maybe you'll get a cute guy in my spot," Jennifer offered
Terry's lips turned up in a smile, giving Jennifer an impish look as
she noted, "Speaking of that, I see your new boss is a lot more pleasing to
the eyes than Samuels is."
"Oh?" Jennifer tried to sound casual, but a faint blush colored her
"Don't give me that," Terry pinned her with a fierce gaze before
adding smugly, "you know I know the type you like."
"I don't even know if she'd be interested," Jennifer protested. She
shook her head, "Besides, she's my boss. It's impossible."
"Uh-huh," Terry gave her a look.
Jennifer finished packing up her stuff, then with a few simple keys,
she cleared her personal settings off of the desk. It would be all ready
for a new officer, when one was bumped over to fill her vacant detective's
Jennifer looked over at Terry, quietly saying, "I'm going to miss
"Me, too," Terry said as she pulled Jennifer close. She squeezed her
friend, not caring about the whispers in the squad-room as the others
watched, then reluctantly let Jennifer go. "Watch yourself, please," she
said in a whisper.
"Will do," Jennifer agreed. She collected her box full of goods and
walked out without a backwards glance, back straight and her steps sure.
Terry watched her go, then she settled behind her desk with a sigh.
"I hope those Chasers know the kind of gem they're getting," she muttered.
* * * * *
Gwen walked towards the door to their section, stopping there just
before she triggered the opening sensor. The metallic door was marked with
'Police Special Operations Unit' in the typical black, regulation text, and
just bellow it, painted on with a much more delicate hand was added the
words 'the Chasers.'
'I really should have that removed,' Gwen thought to herself as she
walked forward, letting the sensors in the door open it, 'but... I don't
want to forget, ever.' She strode down the hall, entering what would have
been a staff room in a larger unit. Converted into a combination of a break
room and waiting area; it held a few couches, a couple of desks, microwave
Curled up in a ball on one of the battered old couches Kate was fast
asleep; snoring softly, her brown hair falling into her face, ruffled
occasionally by her breath.. On a nearby table a half drunk cup of black
coffee sat, slowly growing cold. Gwen picked up a blanket draped over
another chair and pulled it over Kate.
"Rest up," Gwen murmured, "you're probably going to need it."
The connecting door led into the computer center, or as Beth liked to
call it, 'the bridge.' It was here much of the work of being a Chaser was
done, Beth gathering and using data to help track the rogue androids. She
could even track them using their internal transponders, if enough
information was found on the scene to identify the android in question.
"Hey Boss," Beth absently waved, running a series on checks on her
systems. The redhead shifted between three different screens, her eyes
narrowed. "Did you see Kate?"
"Out like a light," Gwen said dryly.
"That's what I meant," Beth shot her a impish smile. "So how does
the officer check out?" she leaned forward curiously.
"Jennifer Grayson," Gwen handed a slim microdisk over to Beth,
"she'll be reporting in here early tomorrow morning."
"She's suitable?" Beth said as she sat up in surprise.
"It looks that way," Gwen agreed. Beth put the disk into one of the
computers, running through the information avidly even as Gwen continued,
"We'll need you to fit her out with a new weapon, as well as brief her on
"She's certainly a big girl," Beth murmured as she read the file,
"maybe she'll be able to handle that cannon I refitted."
"Just keep in mind the powerful recoil of these antiques we use,"
Gwen reminded her, "they do take some getting used to."
"Right, right," Beth said, nodding.
Gwen sighed as she considered the situation. As time had passed
police switched more and more to non-lethal methods of stopping common
criminals. The stunners that were currently being used could stop any
normal criminal in his tracks, but a malfunctioning android would just
ignore the debilitating effects. To stop such things, the weapons of
another era were reluctantly resurrected, the projectile weapons of the
'And we're the lucky ones who get to use them,' Gwen thought grimly.
"Jennifer will be here at 0800; I suspect precisely," she added.
"Looking at this record I'm not surprised," Beth murmured as she read
over more of Jennifer's file. Her eyes widened when she was the image, "She
looks a little like...."
"Yeah, I know," Gwen agreed. She looked towards the break-room
thoughtfully, "Try not to let Kate scare her away, please."
"I'll try," Beth sighed.
"I'm going out," Gwen said calmly, "but my pager and 'com will both
be on. If anything goes wrong, contact me first, only then wake up Kate."
"Got it," Gwen heard Beth say as she left.
The lift brought her down to the garage in only a few moments, and
Gwen navigated easily through the lines of cruisers that were waiting down
there. Her car gleamed silver in it's spot, a single gesture from Gwen's
hand deactivating the security and reactivating the onboard artificial
intelligence of the sleek little vehicle.
"Good evening, Chief Musashi," the female voice said sweetly.
"Reset to manual configuration, please," Gwen said crisply as she
settled behind the drivers seat, "I want to drive tonight."
"Acknowledged," the car replied.
Gwen started it and smoothly directed the car up the access ramp to
street level. The armored exit doors irised aside silently, and she slid
out into the rapid flow of traffic. Out of a sense of morbid curiosity she
intentionally drove by the public entrance of the police annex and felt a
flash of irritation at what she saw out there.
Just like every day this week a group of protesters milled about
outside, waving signs or using projected images. The android rights
protesters weren't very imaginative in their imagery, the police portrayed
as hulking storm troopers, but their message was crystal clear: shut the
Chasers down. Gwen searched the crowd with her eyes, and felt relieved that
there wasn't a familiar face there.
A muscle in Gwen's jaw jumped as she clenched it tightly. "Uptown
map, please," she commanded coldly.
"Map," the computer replied as an image formed in midair beside her,
showing both the fastest route to uptown, and the layout of the upper
levels of the massive city.
"Thanks," Gwen said as she followed the route, but she could have
done it blindfolded if she had to. She slid up a final ramp, and almost
gasped. Up above her, she saw the stars, ones that would be hidden from
view below this mountainous level of the city.
Up here, Gwen's sleek silver vehicle barely fit in at all. The high
priced vehicles that purred their way down the streets, the pollution free
electrical engines carrying the people of this level around, were far more
expensive than anyone on a lower level could afford. She drove between the
silvery towers, breathing the purer air, then finally shook herself.
"Business recreation district," Gwen ordered softly.
The map came up again, and Gwen drove on. The buildings here were
decorated a bit more tastelessly, intended to remind people of an earlier
era. Finding the building she wanted, Gwen pulled into the under-ground
garage, sliding her vehicle into an unoccupied place. She got out, only
pausing to activate the security systems, and walked to the lifts.
"Ms. Musashi," the blue-haired young woman greeted Gwen with a smile
as she emerged from the lift into the lobby, "it's good to see you again."
"Thank you," Gwen said to her calmly, almost instantly recognizing
the android who stood there by name, "Calyx."
"You remembered," Calyx looked up at Gwen, her eyes showing her
pleasure at such a simple thing. She accessed a document on a small
personal organizer she carried, "Several hostesses have put requests in to
be with you when you next came in."
Gwen raised an elegant eyebrow and asked, "Oh?"
"They do talk among themselves," Calyx said to her gently, "and you
have developed quite a reputation as a gentle, respectful guest." She
looked down, to avoid gazing at the clearly surprised Gwen, "Would you
prefer if I chose a hostess for you?"
"Please," Gwen said softly, a faint blush to her cheeks.
"Please go to room number 112," Calyx said softly as she consulted
her control panel, "a hostess will meet you there."
Gwen murmured her thanks again, walking down the hall. She found the
room and entered, kneeling down by a low table. The room, like the rest of
the rooms, was set up like a traditional Japanese home, with paper walls
and wood. She breathed deep of the scent and smiled, feeling relaxed by the
oddly familiar scent. She had never been to such a place, born and raised
in this city, but still...
"Good evening," a quiet voice said as a door slid back. Gwen looked
up and blinked in surprise, taking in the beautiful young woman who was
"Would you like me to pour your drink, madam?" Calyx asked with a
nervous smile as she took the sake bottle in her hands, holding it in the
Gwen hesitated, then held out the cup, "Please."