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World of Illusions, Teaser for publishing

April 26, 2010

I make a small slit in a plastic bag filled with a white powdery substance.  A tiny amount of the soft, snow-like flakes remains on my blade.  I bring the bright metal up to my mouth and touch the stuff with the tip of my tongue.
It’s so sweet, I recognize it immediately – “Sugar.”  It’s a strange thing about addictions, the guy could eat all the sweet stuff he wanted without the sugar, but it has to be the real thing.
Sanchez cuffs the old man, reads his rights and lectures him about the tremendous health costs abusing sugar causes, as if the man hasn’t been through treatment six times already.
The geezer starts crying.  He can’t help himself.  He grew up when no one thought anything about eating sweets.
Sometimes I hate my job.
No.  That isn’t right.  I hate my job.  Sometimes I just hate it more.
We throw him into the back of the car.  Sanchez gets in beside me.  Her eyes are dancing.  She gets off on this stuff.  Me, I only feel depressed.
Not for the first time, I wonder why she’s a noncon.  She’s never told me and it’s impolite to ask.  For all I know, she’s got something like my epilepsy that cuts her off from direct access to the Overlay.  I was born eight years before the World Health Organization approved the gene therapy for my specific kind of epilepsy.  The operation that I qualified for cured the seizures but cut me off from the experiences of most of the world.   There aren’t many jobs for a nonconnected.  Street cop is one of them.  I have a feeling it isn’t a medical problem for Sanchez.  I’m probably better off not knowing.
Our vehicle follows its programming back to the detention center while we read our reports into the database.  I let Sanchez handle most of it, adding details when I think it’s appropriate.  If the old man had any sense he’d be listening in, but he’s having a pity party.   Most people don’t realize it, but the system takes a memory log off all suspects and puts it into seal.  If he claims harassment, the data will be brought to court.
We could squeeze the addict for his supplier, but I’ll the let the District Attorney handle that.  Our car glides into the parking garage of the public safety building.  If you haven’t seen Seattle’s citadel of crime control, you aren’t missing anything.  They built it on the remains of the old police department when the big one wiped out just about everything from Victoria to Medford and it’s practically identical to every other hall of justice in the world.  Not that the old building was anything to be proud of with its twentieth century functionality.
“Mind taking him in?” I don’t feel like being around anyone right now.
“Sure, Joe.”  Sanchez takes grandpa to the holding cells and I head upstairs.  The place is quiet to my ears.  The only sign that there are people working is the flicker of motion from a desk’s interface.
I head to my office and wait for Sanchez to join me.  There is a definite line between the teles of the Overlay and the noncons.  Our offices are glassed in to provide screens for the various projectors that we need to communicate with most of the world.  The rest of the building is composed of empty cavernous rooms filled with teles.
As I step into the partitioned area, I see several other noncons sitting around in the lunch area, drinking green tea while planning their weekend.  Normally, I’d join them, but today I don’t feel like it.  They glance up as I walk by, but my visage is about as inviting as a blank screen, so they just wave to me.  I wave back and enter my office.
I hate my office more than I hate my job.  Four glass walls, one of them looking outside, a desk and several functional chairs.  Even if the regs allowed a personal touch, I can’t afford much anyway.  I sit down when the projectors activate.  Erik Vallier’s form wavers at the edge of the partition, his shockingly red hair is recognizable before the rest of him comes into focus.  He heads for my office.  Erik was waiting for me to show up.
He knocks on the door.  At least he’s polite.  Most teles don’t bother.
“Come in.”  I don’t look up.
“Hey, Julian.”  I wince.  I hate that name.  My dad named me after some Sci-Fi doctor from the last century.  No matter how many times I tell Erik to use Joe, he keeps using Julian.  If I was Sanchez, I’d spend hours trying to figure why he’s so passive-aggressive.  I’m just annoyed, but other than the involuntary wince, I’m not going to show it.
“What do you want?”
“I wanted to ask a favor.”  Erik looks a little apologetic.
“A friend of mine is worried about her grandfather and wanted to know if we could check up on him.”
“Why don’t you call him then?”
Erik frowns, “you’re being obtuse on purpose.  I already tried.  His house has been completely disconnected.  Which is weird, even your apartment isn’t completely disconnected.”
“Sometimes I wish it was,” I mutter.
“What was that?”
“I said ‘you want me to see what the problem was,’ right?”
“Who’s the guy?”
“Dr. David Kim.”  Erik makes a motion and the most recent image of the man shows up on my desk along with the basic twenty-two pieces of information.  If I need more I can dig it up, or have someone like Erik do it.  He looks fit for a man approaching middle age.  I hope I look that good when I’m in my late seventies.  He wears glasses.  An interesting quirk, no one wears glasses anymore.
I note the address.  Dr. Kim is a wealthy man.  “O.k., Sanchez and I’ll go knock on his door.  Anything else I need to know?”
“I don’t think so, thanks.” Erik looks relieved.
I head for the door and catch Sanchez out in the tele area.  “We’re going to do a little stop and chat for Erik.”  I nod over my shoulder.
Sanchez looks behind me and grins, “I don’t see anyone.”
Erik had already stepped out of the projector area and disappeared.
“Very funny.”

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