Three hours later, I was feeling the glow. I had
gone through all the katas I knew—One through Twelve. I’d studied
some higher ones, but not to the point of mastery. And I didn’t
want to risk time on anything that wouldn’t serve me perfectly.
I was just getting out of the shower when my PDA went off again.
I flipped it open. It was Vonnie Lasseter.
“I went overtime for you, citizen,” he said. “So did some other
“Thanks, citizen,” I said.
“The impossible, as usual, has been done. You have a meeting with
Citizen Lisa Preston tomorrow. The day is a no-go. There’s
a Court conference on the defendents in the RFAC case and everything
else. But she could switch her morning workout. You still
do your routines in the MSA gym every morning, right?”
“She’ll be there at five-forty-five sharp.”
“Yeah. Thank you, Vonnie. Did I tell you I had two people
with fake R99 ‘scrips?”
“Yes. I mentioned that.”
“Well, you can make it thirty-five as of now.”
He shook his head. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Max.”
“Did I ever? By the way, how much did you tell Nedra Madour about
“Nothing she didn’t need to know,” he replied.
“She seemed to know about my MES days. She doesn’t need to know
all that much.”
“What,” he said, “it’s not like you traffick or anything … right?”
“Who trafficks just might surprise you,” I said. “Thanks again,
We hit the end button together.
It was fully dark by the time I found myself walking, for the
third time in a day, down the street toward citizen Keef Herzog’s
building. That wasn’t good. But nobody pulled up and
invited me for a ride.
The moon was up and a faint mist was rolling into the city from the
bottomlands to the river beyond. Lights softened, and even the
hum of evening activity from the downtown area muted a bit. I’d
always lived in the city. I’d had thoughts of obtaining an
agri-license and moving out into the countryside a bit, but it was too
late for this old cop. I’d hate it out there, and I knew that
damn well. I was born here, and here I’d die. I’d be in
good company. For all its vaunted striving toward life and
freedom, Libria had ways of making death easy to come by.
The ConSec officers were long gone. Herzog’s flat would be sealed
and set with surveillance devices.
Luckily, I wasn’t going that far.
I stepped into the entryway of his building and took a look
around. Unless they had something new—which was possible—the
entryway wasn’t surveillanced.
I pulled on my thin plastic gloves and went to work on Number Three’s
drop slot with a modified screwdriver. It took about fifteen
seconds before the aged metal yielded. At the bottom was a small,
rounded lump of high-impact material, cool to the touch. I
drew it out. They weren’t making ConSec officers like they used
I hadn’t caught Citizen Herzog opening his slot. I’d caught him
That was where he kept his spare PDA, and I had it.
I quickly closed the door, snicked-to what was left of the latch, and
looked around again. So far, so good.
I left. I hoped I was done with this place now. It wasn’t
my kind of neighborhood.
Once home again, I checked citizen Herzog’s PDA. It was a cheap
one. Naturally. As I’d done the night before with his other
one, I switched it on, avoided the call button, and downloaded his
directory, this time into Old Betsy’s comunications program.
This one was more interesting than his other one. It had quite an
assortment of numbers, though this security guy had taken the
precaution of entering nicknames or abbreviations for almost all of
them. I did recognize his work number at TeleLibria, and what
looked to be numbers for a half-dozen tele-eros services, as well as
restaurants—including Allie’s—and a few other businesses.
One hit me right away: entered as GD, it was the number identical
to ‘General Distributing’ which Citizen John Preston had given
me. There were a couple of ConSec exchange numbers. The
others would have to wait until morning. It would take ‘net work,
which could be done faster, especially with Jak’s help, at the
office. A man’s gotta sleep sometime, and if there was one woman
in Libria I didn’t want to stand up, it would be citizen Lisa Preston.
And I didn’t dream that night. That was fine by me. Dreams
aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
I hit the locker room at the Ministry gymplex at five-thirty as
usual. The morning had passed without incident; if anyone
was keeping an eye on me, they were doing it very discreetly. But
then, there were citizens who made a very good living specializing in
that sort of thing.
I started my warm-ups; slow, gentle, like my friend Miles’
horn. A number of other citizens arrived about the same time, and
some, including a couple of the ladies, had come on the same
train. I had to wonder how many of them had R99 in their bags
along with the vitamins, minerals, supplements, apsirins, liniments,
and rubs. Children weren’t desired by everyone in Libria;
if they were, there wouldn’t be so many family incentives in
place. But among those who did want them, it looked like the
usual means were thought to require some enhancement. Even if it
meant illegal medication. The penalties for being caught with
substances varied according to their classification. Nicotoids,
of course, along with White Magic and its numerous derivatives like
Lightning, topped the list, followed by various opioids, barbiturates,
amphetamines, and assorted psychotropes; then came certain steroids,
benzodiazepines, and others, including anything whose dispense-permit
had expired. Cannabinoids, caffeinoids, theobromine, animal
proteins, and alcohol came near the bottom. My work hadn’t dealt
much with estradiols and androstenediones, but I didn’t recall them as
being subject to high scheduling. That didn’t mean you got off
lightly for distibution, or intent to distribute.
As I was completing the warm-ups, I saw that my treadmill acquaintance
from yesterday was not with her group, and another also seemed to be
missing. But they had been replaced by a trim young woman in a
royal blue unitard and leg warmers, with her brown hair done up tight,
accompanied by three other newcomers; one a male in shiny, baggy
black sweatpants, slender but smooth-moving; the second, a small
female in dusty pink who looked to be an immigrant, most likely from
Koguryo; the third, a big blond male, at least Spud’s size,
vidstar-handsome with plenty of muscle to boot. This would be
Citizen Lisa Preston and associates.
“What’s she doing here?” asked Jonesy, coming up behind me. “I
thought she had a private gym.”
“My guest,” I said.
He laughed and punched me in the shoulder. “You up for sticks
today, old man?”
Citizen Preston was evidently combining her business, so I told Jonesy
‘sure,’ and we went for the practice area. We put on our guards
and padded helmets, fastened our leg straps, and with some loosening
moves behind us, faced off. He was on his game, and got in a few
touches in the first five minutes.
“What’s on your mind, Max?” he asked. “You’re not concentrating.”
“Sorry,” I said. “It looks like we have company.” Lisa
Preston and her female friend were rounding the corner into our
space. I disengaged and lifted my face guard.
“Citizen Max Slater,” said Lisa with a bright, warm smile, extending
her hand. It still took a bit of effort for me to attach the
‘Citizen’ to her. ‘Lisa Preston’ and nothing else she had been in
the public notices since her schooldays, completing her volunteer
Service, visiting hospital patients, being elected to student
societies, and appearing on academic honours lists. She hadn’t
recorded a pop album that I knew of. Yet. “It’s good to see
you. And Citizen Jones, of course, of the BPW. How are
things coming along on the Woods Road improvement project? Have
the utilities people finished upgrading the conduit in the
thirty-two-hundred block yet?”
“It’s, um, going well. We should have that part completed by next
week,” answered Jonesy, a little taken aback.
“Well ahead of schedule. Excellent. Do call my office if
those drones over at Commo don’t begin installing the ‘net upgrades by
Monday morning,” she told him with a wink. “I may be able to put
a word in. And with that, citizen Slater, what would you like to
work on this morning? I don’t have a regulation singlestick kit,
or, of course, my bogu for kendo with me. Perhaps a little light
jojitsu? I believe their equipment room can handle that.” I
nodded. “Kukishin-ryu?” Somehow, I wasn’t surprised.
“I know most of the waza,” I told her. I selected a hanbo, a
shorter stick, while she selected a full-length bo, and soon we were
warming up with those.
“I’m told you have information about an illegal fertility medication
which has been cropping up,” she said, as we stood both facing the
mirrors, beginning the basic kata.
I told her what I knew about R99. “Yesterday, I knew of two
people who had bogus prescriptions that supposedly authorized them to
have it. As of this morning, I’m up to thirty-five. Their
information is coded onto forged ID wristbands.”
“Just like this one?” she said, holding out her left arm for me to see
as she brought her staff around.
“Undetectable,” I said. “Picked up on a scan, most officers
would assume it was a legimate prescription—why put an illegal drug on
an ID band, after all? It’s not on the schedules, so they
wouldn’t know. But it would afford recognition to anyone who did
know what it was. There’s probably a fair amount of this going
“How did you uncover this?”
“On a missing person case. The citizen I’m looking for had one of
the forged ‘bands.”
“Who is that?”
“Irina Madour,” I told her. “It’s an illegal medication to begin
with, but she’s only sixteen. I doubt it’s a good idea for her to
be taking that stuff. She can’t legally marry for awhile yet.”
“What makes you think she’s taking it?”
“Her fake ‘band also said she’s twenty-one. Why would it say that
unless she wanted to appear to be of legal age for marriage, and for
“And why would she want to do that?”
“That’s what I don’t understand,” I said. “Her parents are
prominent citizens. Her father’s one of the world’s foremost
doctors. They certainly wouldn’t approve, even though her
mother’s a leader of the Libria Family Foundation.”
“Their goals are admirable,” said Lisa. “Libria’s birthrate
problem is urgent.”
I made agreement. “But not that urgent. They don’t need to
be enlisting teen-agers for the cause.”
“We’re having hearings about that tomorrow. Some feel that we do
need to be doing just that. The RFAC certainly think so.”
“Could they be behind this? They have the money. They have
the motivation. Some say they have the connections.”
“What’s your theory?” She set the long staff whirling in a
pattern around, over, and behind her, a waza I’d never seen done live
with a bo. She was very good at this.
“Irina was mixed up with a two guys who were making the ‘bands.
Both had connections at TeleLibria, and another had a link to the nick
trade, and to ConSec.”
“You think they’re getting their financing from tobacco smuggling?”
Whatever she might know about her father, I wasn’t about to come out
with it, or information about the shootout, either. Keep it
simple, Slater. “I’m not sure,” I said cautiously. “I’m
inclined to doubt it. Irina had been under treatment for nick
addiction, and maybe she just wanted someone to get her fix for
her. And that someone also happened to be in the fake ‘bands
racket. She brought him the data to make them; he got paid off in
nick, and cut her in. It makes sense. But all the bands
carried the false ‘scrips for R99. Maybe she was working for the
RFAC in exchange for a place to stay, for protection, and getting the
nick on the side. That makes sense, too.”
“So you think that digging through the LFF into the RFAC may provide a
lead to Irina,” said Lisa, going into a quick succession of parries and
“And a lead to Irina could make some heads roll at ConSec, and
elsewhere,” I said. “Remember, the R99 formula comes from
the Rockland Foundation, which supports some serious health causes,
including your brother. Her lifespan may be limited if this isn’t
taken care of quickly.”
“Are you suggesting that my brother’s cause is supported by nicotine
trafficking?” she asked, her face becoming serious.
“That’s not what I meant at all,” I said. “A lot of citizens
support the Foundation, including your father. And you, for that
matter. If they originated the formula and it was stolen
from them somehow, that doesn’t make them guilty. It could have
leaked out through a BOH source. Even a Justice source.
Irina could have stolen it herself. She’s good with
computers. If she got hold of it and gave it to them, the RFAC
people could certainly protect her in exchange. But there’s just
no way to tell that right now. That’s what I meant by saying her
lifespan could be short.”
She came to a resting position and looked up at me. “No wonder
you wanted to see me,” she said. “Authier and Nedra Madour have
been important supporters for what we do, for some of the causes I
advance. Their work could be seriously compromised if Irina were
to fall into the wrong hands.”
“Her mother realizes that,” I said. “It was Nedra who came to me
with this. I’m sure she tried to convey that to him. I did
my best. He just didn’t seem to get it.” She resumed her
“What do you plan to do next?”
I took a moment to think. “I’ve been working this by myself,” I
said. “I’m beginning to get in over my head. I think it’s
time for some law. I don’t see any way around notifying ConSec
now and putting out a dragnet, even though that will tip off some of
“What about the traffickers?”
“I have reason to believe one’s been picked up,” I said, which was not
literally untrue. “At least one more confederate is still at
large. And I have some leads on data I can follow up.”
“And what would you like from me?” she asked, going side to side with a
waza that involved a series of blows.
“You have authority to make official enquiries in the medication
business, and you have connections to the family activism sources that
I don’t,” I said. “I can’t do otherwise than tell you to look
into it without delay and to do as you see fit as a Council member and
Chair of Justice. Specfically, I’d ask you to talk to Doctor
Madour. Maybe you can make him see what’s going on where us
lesser mortals can’t.”
“And the ConSec connection?”
“I’m not in a position to tackle it right now. Anyway, I think
it’ll come out in the wash. It may be able to be taken care of by
some administrative action. That’s where you’re good.”
She brought her staff down in a wide-armed sweeping movement which
halted exactly at the suface of the mat, and held the position for a
moment. Then she lifted her head up and said: “It sounds to
me, citizen, like we have the makings of a plan.”
“I hope so,” I said. “Otherwise, people may get hurt.”
She came upright with a smooth movement, and we faced each other for a
bow. “That,” she said, “would not be good.”
“One more thing,” I asked her as we went back to the equipment
room. “Have you ever heard of an outfit called General
There wasn’t a flicker. “No. Why do you ask?”
“Just a scrap I ran across. I’m the nosy type. I couldn’t
make any sense out of it. Just thought I’d ask.”
As we returned to the main area, she said. “We will be in touch,
then.” Her associates concluded what they doing and came
over. “Citizen Slater,” she said, indicating the woman in pink,
“this is Citizen Matsuya. I’ve stopped trying to beat her with
the naginata. Now I just try to hold my own.” I put my
hands together for her, and she returned the gesture. Indicating
the guy in black, she said: “And this is Citizen DiLeone.
They’re on my staff. And this,” she said, indicating the blond bruiser,
“is my husband Balder. He’s in export and import.”
“Pliss to mit yu,” said Balder, crushing my hand.
“Likewise,” I said, pausing to pop some metacarpals back into place.
“Do call my office if you need anything,” she said with another
smile. “I’ll make sure you can get through.”
“Fine. Thank you, citizen,” I said, and as they went off to do
their own thing, I thought I’d just hit the treadmill again.
There was no sign of Jonesy; probably off in the weight room.
It was good to have an ally in a high place, though one in a lower
place—say, a ConSec investigator—would have been of more immedate
use. As it was, there wasn’t anyone I could trust there right
now, not until I got citizen Herzog’s contact list decoded. I
reflected that the four people I’d just met would have made a good
Grammaton ops team: Pink and Black to sweep, Balder to do the
cracking, and Lisa to clean. I did my cool-downs and hit the
showers a bit early. I didn’t forget to pick up a muffin for Jak.
Outside, I thought I’d make a call. The busy, anonymous plaza
outside the Ministry’s lower entrance was a good place for it. I
set my gym bag down beside a trashcan and dialled Citizen Sami
Petanko’s office at TeleLibria’s accounts center. I was informed
that he hadn’t reported in to work.
That removed all doubt. It was time for Step One. I dialled
Officer Roy Roy at ConSec. He listened attentively as I brought
him up to speed on a few items. I told him about Irina Madour,
and her connection to citizen Herzog and citizen Petanko. As with
Lisa Preston, I didn’t mention any connection to Tuesday’s
shootout. I didn’t mention R99, and I didn’t mention anyone named
“Her friend Herzog turned up dead the night before last,” Roy said.
“I heard. Her other friend, citizen Petanko, hasn’t been
answering his calls since yesterday, and didn’t turn up for work this
“Why didn’t you report this when you learned about Herzog?” he asked.
“I got sidetracked,” I said. “Anyway, I don’t doubt you’ve got
every qualified officer on that big blow-up from Tuesday.”
“Ouch,” he said. “’Qualified officer’ is right, citizen. I
know that you were with our precursor agency a long time ago.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It wasn’t ‘Consolidated Security’
then. It was MES, the Municipal Enforcement Service. I was
in what they called ‘vice,’ which covered substance offences. I
was there for a few years until they had a corruption scandal involving
White Magic. I wasn’t involved, but I couldn’t stay. Public
hearings, everything exposed--too much was compromised. That’s
when LibMed made me an offer, and spent thirteen years there as an
adjuster. You know the rest.”
“A lot’s changed since your days, old-timer. ConSec’s a lot
bigger overall. Some things, like surveillance, prevention and
community awareness, we do real well. Paperwork,
administration. Corporate crimes, like smuggling, embezzlement,
and patent infringement. We have a good little section for riot
control and crowd suppression. But start bringing in crooks trained in
real armed combat, and we’re not much ahead of where the old MES was—in
fact, we’re behind in some ways. Once they could rely on a supply
of ex-Tetras, but that well’s run dry. There hasn’t been much
call for it in the last ten years or so, and you know how supply and
demand works. The new people coming in, what there are of them,
all want desk jobs in surveillance or social services.”
“Yep. Well, Irina was mixed up with this Herzog and his nick
trade, and it looks like that’s taken a nasty turn. She needs to
be taken in for her own protection, if nothing else. And I’ll
breathe easier when we’ve heard from citizen Petanko again.”
“I’ll see to it, citizen. Anything else?”
“I’ll let you know.”
“All right then. Be good now.”
“’Later.” I hit the end button.