|The Oogy Underground
Author: starofoberon PM
In a dark dystopian future, technology rules. Profiling's discredited as unscientific voodoo law enforcement. Erin Strauss and Derek Morgan know technology's been hijacked by evil forces—but will they survive to prove it? ALL past & present team appears!Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Suspense - Erin S. & D. Morgan - Words: 3,584 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 9 - Published: 05-24-12 - id: 8148107
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N 1: Written in response to the May future fic challenge, in which I was to pair up Erin and Derek in the spring of 2022. As always, the characters belong to assorted entities at CBS and ABC, not to mention the earnest scribblers at Criminal Minds and the awesome actors who give them flesh, blood, and bone.
A/N 2: This isn't a high-priority story for me until Pixels in the Night is completed (in about 5 weeks total, God willing) and I'll be updating Watching the Watchers again, which still has four chapters to go—returning June 1!—and everything takes a back seat to Solitary 5.0, which will probably roll on throughout most of the summer. So expect updates on this one maybe every two weeks for a bit.
As always, props to Esperanta, beta par excellence, without whom this stuff would look pretty amateurish.
The Oogy Underground
Chain of Connection
The Garden Party: Erin Strauss
Cherry blossom petals floated on the breeze and their delicate scent filled the air. She would remember that part of the day long afterward: the sheer beauty before the nightmare. And how her face ached from smiling, smiling, pretending she was pleased.
She sat on a white wrought-iron chair in Senator Baxter's garden, all soft ruffles and picture hat and white gloves, sipping a flute of ginger ale while around her Washington's best and brightest toasted one another and the future of law enforcement with champagne. A string quintet played light classical selections as the sun set. She remembered thinking "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" might have been more appropriate, but nobody asked her.
Nobody asked Erin Strauss much of anything these days. If her husband weren't still a player of some stature around the District, she'd be a complete nonentity, representing, as she did, all that was failed and discredited in law enforcement techniques.
At least she'd bailed early on, when there was still time to do so with a little dignity. Before the whole notion of motives and alibis and profiles had been utterly debunked, replaced by what the snarky rebellious blogger calling itself "Oogy Panopticon Jones" called technolatry, blind worship at the altar of the technical tools of crime investigation.
Her excuse had been that she'd been close to the Bureau's mandatory retirement age—which was true enough—but she'd seen the writing on the wall. She'd tried to warn some of the true believers, especially those in Behavioral Analysis, that their skills would mean nothing, less than nothing—that everything that couldn't be recorded digitally was doomed to become a punchline. Some had listened, and had carved out lives that they at least had some control over. Some hadn't listened, and had paid a heavy price.
Suddenly there was a disturbance in the Force, so to speak. She could see milling party goers stopping, falling silent, and stepping backward. It was as obvious and as eerie as watching the grasses shift as the velociraptors stalked their prey in those classic Jurassic Park movies. Weirder still, the disturbance was headed her way. She wanted to stand up, to climb on her chair and get a better view of what was coming, but instead she gulped the last of her ginger ale.
She thanked God that it wasn't champagne, that she was still sober, because she knew she would need her wits about her.
The last of the guests parted, and Soraya Lindsay, an old friend, staggered toward Erin, her hair disheveled, her white lace frock splattered with dark crimson, as if she were gearing up to sing the Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor.
"It's Nicky," Soraya rasped. "He's dead, he's dead in the music room, to the right of the main hall. There's blood everywhere." Her eyes met Erin's and they were already as dead as she claimed that her husband's were. "And I know they'll blame me. I need help; I need Oogy."
Somewhat taken aback, Erin aimed for caution. "What makes you think I would know—"
She looked around her. They were all alone; the other guests had recoiled from the blood-soaked madwoman.
"I've heard you talk about the future of law enforcement," Soraya said. "Your heart isn't in it. You can't fool me, girl. You know Oogy, where to find it."
"I don't," Erin told her quietly. "And you're crazy to talk like that. There are ears everywhere, girlfriend."
"Well, I believe in the Oogy Underground. And so did he. Even if you can't save me, Erin, for the sake of our friendship—get justice for my Nicky!"
"Soraya, the Underground is a fiction. There's no gang of superheroes fighting the system. Oogy's just some nutbag with a blog. Who does blogs anymore, for pity's sake?"
"Then call me crazy," Soraya said, looking firmly into Erin's eyes. "It's just me, I've always been a little odd. But I do believe in Oogy, believe that the system's been co-opted. You have to believe what's right for you, of course."
She backed off then and sat down in a chair off to the side, like any wallflower hoping to be invited to dance, her hands folded decorously over her messy dress. She gave Erin one last calm smile, then seemed to shut down, perhaps going to another, quieter place in her mind. Erin returned to her seat, lifted her glass, and looked around for a waiter to refill it.
Within a few minutes what had been a garden party was overrun by police officers, overseen by none other than Deputy Chief William LaMontagne, hard-eyed and stern, appearing as if by magic at the side of Senator Baxter. LaMontagne surveyed the assembled guests without warmth—although his mouth twitched ever so slightly as he caught sight of Strauss—before he called in the Tyvek-clad evidence techs. Then, like everyone else, he turned his attention to sucking up to the senator.
Erin Strauss gathered her things and started to make her way toward the parking valet even as the crime scene techs arrived with their "Skeekers," their cutting-edge evidence gathering and analysis tools. The damn things were properly called Self Contained Evidence Acquisition Computerized Recorders—SCEACRs—but everyone called them Skeekers, which Erin thought was appropriately creepy.
The principal scene tech gathered a double handful of bright metal Skeeker spheres in her hands, each with a tiny iridescent propeller cap on one end. She glanced at a read-out, then spoke the precise time into her stalk mike and flung the spheres into the room where Lindsay lay. They would open out into a drill team of bug-eyed golden dragonflies, flitting about the entire area, bobbing up and down, even under furniture, oscillating and recording everything. Dipping into pools of blood to record samples; pressing against the mouth and ears of the decedent to derive body temperature; sliding along the whole sprawled body, recording each bruise, each microscopic bit of trace evidence.
Even if Erin had been able to wangle access to the crime scene, she wouldn't have bothered to watch the process. She'd seen it all too often in her last years with the Bureau. The input from the Skeekers would create a permanent three-dimensional image of the crime scene to be analyzed, even presented in a court room as a hologram by Skurches—Erin could never remember the proper acronym for those little boogers; they were called Skurches and they projected the information from the Skeekers.
It was Science as religion, worshiped by investigators and jurors alike: dependable, perfect, irrefutable.
It was the New Law Enforcement, and, inevitably, the New Bureau. Motive and alibi were now relegated to secondary, even tertiary importance. Who needed investigation, interrogation, when there was universal security footage and there were Skeekers? It would be, the Chief of Police and the head of the FBI liked to say, like paying $500 an hour for fifteen years to some Freudian analyst for your depressive episode, when for $200, within one hour, a cognitive therapist could slip you some drugs and arm you with mantras and panic-buddies and make you feel good about getting better.
It was all about drugs, for control and for arrest purposes. And the Skeekers. The goddamned Skeekers.
She saw them in her nightmares.
When she got to her car, before she slid her key card into the ignition, she took a moment to call up her public library account and put in a request for the latest Rosalynne Davis romance novel. She was so rattled that she screwed up, speaking the wrong title into her phone, and it beeped at her. She changed it the the correct title and closed off the communication.
She inserted the key card, tapped in her ID PIN, selected her home address from the menu of approved destinations, and headed for peace and quiet.
~ o ~
The Library: Spencer Reid
The public library was a cool and serene place, granite and marble and polished wood, with comfy chairs, plenty of IT access, a limited selection of physically printed and bound books— the model that a decade before would have been termed a "cybrary"—and a professional staff composed of library science majors and zombies.
Well, OK, not actual, undead, brain-munching zombies, but most folks called the mentally disturbed, heavily medicated externs who lived in group homes and did the scut work around the library "zombies" behind their backs, and some called them that to their faces. Nobody minded, least of all the zombies, doing the 2022 version of the Thorazine Shuffle through the stacks, engaging in the endless data entry involved in a modern library. In their fluffy little drugged world, nothing much mattered to them but the reward they got at the end of the day for carrying out their duties properly.
The request for Rosalynne Davis's Throbbing Tuscan Love, initially given as Throbbing on the Bayou by an apparently absent-minded Erin Strauss, went to the zombie working Romance requests. He was a tall, thin man of about forty with dull eyes, messy tan hair and a glowing badge that said, Hi, I'm STEVE! Let me take your ROMANCE requests!
Moving slowly and deliberately, he punched in the request, ensuring that a digital copy of the book would be available to member ERIN EILEEN SHEEHAN STRAUSS (MRS WALTER) starting immediately, cycling from her system in precisely 14 days. Then, because the publishers of Rosalynne Davis's bodice-rippers had requested ongoing information about free use of their star author's works, "Steve" informed them of a request for a digital edition of Passions on the Bayou, correction, Throbbing Tuscan Love.
Then, continuing to look blank and heavily medicated, he tapped the news feed beside his work station and saw that the body of the discredited venture capitalist-turned-informer and anti-technology activist, Milius Nicholas Lindsay, age 55, had been discovered on the grounds of Senator Baxter's townhouse near Embassy Row.
Performing some rapid calculations in his head, he determined which bus he would have to get on that night to get home successfully. It always pleased the case workers at the group homes when zombies performed their tasks successfully.
"Steve," a portly elderly woman asked, her lips pursed—people of her generation just didn't feel comfortable entrusting anything to zombies; they couldn't help it—"I need to find out which story in Drusilla Farmer's 'Bleeding Country' series follows Love Finds Amanda Layne."
He pretended to consult the database. "Cordelia Loses Her Heart," he replied, his voice slow and sluggish, but polite. Always polite and pleasant. "It came out in August of 2019." He gave no smile, though. People got freaked when zombies smiled, possibly because they might have to acknowledge the humanity of a smiling zombie. While "Steve" wasn't a zombie and hadn't been one for three years, the fewer people who knew that, the safer and happier he would be and the better he'd be able to serve the Underground.
~ o ~
The Management Office: Derek Morgan
At the headquarters of Freeman-Mayfair-Fowler, one of whose subsidiaries published some of the country's finest escapist fiction, office manager Derek Morgan made a note of both the request for Throbbing Tuscan Love and the notification (encoded by the error and correction) that Erin Strauss wanted him to trigger the Oogy Underground.
A glance at his own news feed confirmed that Milius Nicholas Lindsay was dead; Lindsay's wife, Soraya, was a friend of Erin's, he knew.
From undercover cop to FBI profiler to publishing house manager might seem like a strange career path, but for Morgan, it made perfect sense, because now he was all three. Like Erin, like Dave Rossi, he'd seen the writing on the wall soon and bailed from the Bureau early on. Now his New Law Enforcement supporting creds were unassailable. As the operating head of the Oogy Underground, most of his job was undercover and hand-waving, and the rest of it was profiling on the fly. He'd have been happier if things had never changed, but he truly felt that given the state of the world, he was pretty pleased with his life.
He consulted another screen on his workpad and submitted a bid for yet another subsidiary of Freeman-Mayfair-Fowler, all but guaranteeing that Mayfair Sanitation picked up the clean-up contract for the crime scene.
He stood up, stretched, took off his suit coat and hung it over the back of his chair, removed his tie, then took a handful of request slips from his in-box and sauntered slowly over to the storeroom. He flicked on the light switch, punched in his pass code, and entered the room. In the wonderful world of all-surveillance, all the time, anyone who was interested—and the New Law Enforcement was always interested—could observe Derek, tieless and in his shirtsleeves, doing interminable, boring data entry tasks on the main supply computer.
It would take someone sharper than the Underground's tech genius to crack the images and determine that the footage was fake, random video of Derek doing random office manager jobs, recorded at times when that was what he was actually doing. The tieless-and-coatless bit ensured that they wouldn't have to do any matching up of whatever jacket and tie Morgan happened to be wearing that day.
Now, safe from the constant prying eyes of an all-too-helpful Nanny-state, he got to work.
~ o ~
Public Transportation System: Spencer Reid
He'd once written a journal article delineating how the 9/11 attacks, and the rush afterward to make sure everyone who got on an aircraft had a valid photo ID, then the TSA madness, had led inevitably to "safe" travel, minimizing auto accidents by requiring drivers to present valid ID upon entering their cars, limiting the number of destinations a vehicle could travel to and the routes it could take, making public transportation fast and inexpensive while making passengers present ID and limiting them to particular personally significant routes without a prior application.
His problem was that he'd written it six years before the smart cars and bus ID cards were introduced, which made him less prescient than paranoid. Once his family's health history was checked, it was only a matter of time before the difficult, obviously paranoid genius found himself under psychiatric care. Like mother, like son, after all.
Now the little chip on his DC Metro Clever Card chirped, informing him that he was running out of sections of this route he was authorized to take. This was all right with the guy whom the world knew as "Steve." A brisk walk through the near end of Rock Creek Park would allow him to pick up a connecting route with several minutes to spare. He got off via the rear door of the bus with a vague wave at the driver's security camera.
His planned pedestrian route took him past an underpass occupied by a community of the chronically homeless. These failures, medically non-compliant, socially withdrawn individuals, most of them mentally ill, were generally left to their own devices until such times as it became politically expedient to round them up, hose them down, and—inevitably—let them go back to their underpasses, their burned-out buildings, because they were just too much trouble to house and manage.
As he passed under a street lamp, he paused, looked around, and a voice called out, "Hey, Charlie," to him.
"Name's not Charlie," he called back. Zombies were pretty literal.
"Got a buck or two so a man can wet his whistle, Charlie?"
"My money's my own," he answered, but he didn't move on.
"Just two bucks, maybe three? Hell, I can't get high on three bucks," the homeless man in grubby sweats insisted. The other residents stood back; clearly, this guy held a position of some authority within the encampment. "I'm just you without the meds, you know that, right, Charlie?"
"Don't be an asshole," he said at the homeless guy, but because he was a zombie, he said it politely, calmly. Zombies didn't raise their voices.
The homeless guy was right there beside him now, his bright black eyes shining with quiet challenge. His face was deeply lined and what little wiry hair he still had on his head was as gray as his great bushy beard. "Three dollars. Maybe five. Five would be nice. Five would buy me a hot dog with everything."
"Three," Spencer Reid said, pulling his wallet out of his pocket.
"Five would be better. Five would make me sing and dance."
Reid almost but not quite smiled. "I'm sure I can do without that. Three dollars." He wrapped his informational data for the Oogy Underground in three one-dollar bills and handed them to the homeless guy. "Don't spend it all in one place."
"No, sir, no, sir," Jason Gideon said smoothly, bowing slightly and sketching a salute with one hand in its tattered, fingerless glove. Maybe just the faintest of winks. "Bless you, Charlie Zombie Boy."
"My name's not Charlie," Reid said with a sigh, and continued on to his assigned bus stop. Zombies didn't stand around and chat.
~ o ~
The Management Office: Derek Morgan
Still in the privacy of the store room, Morgan connected by video with Freeman-Mayfair-Fowler's star author, the estimable Rosalynne Davis. "Hey, gorgeous," he purred at the queen of steamy romances, curled up on a Regency sofa with brandy and a cigar, "how's the world of love, adventure, and designer couture?"
"Hell," the bearded senior citizen whose given name was David Leonard Rossi growled back at him. "Challenging. Do you have any idea how few ways there are to describe a nipple?"
Morgan chuckled. "I guess I've always been more an appreciator than a describer."
"Excuses, excuses. I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I said there are only seventeen ways?"
"I'd have to check with Reid."
"Wimp. What's up, chief?"
"Nicky Lindsay," Morgan told him. "Dead at Senator Baxter's earlier this afternoon. We got a heads-up from Erin Strauss that we might be interested in following it."
"As in Milius Nicholas Lindsay? Never mind, I see it on my news feed. They're holding his wife, no charges yet, just 'potential relevance to the investigation.' What do you need from me?"
"Nothing yet, just reaching out to the troops. Mayfair nailed the cleanup job, I think." He rolled his eyes. "And after all, maybe Metro D.C.'s finest'll get the right man this time."
"That's be a first. Who has it? Never mind. I have to stop asking questions; I keep getting the answers on my news feed before I'm done asking them. It's enough to make a man paranoid, if he weren't already. Oh, good—Will's on it, so that's one thing in our favor."
Morgan massaged his temples thoughtfully. "I hope so."
"Hey, when's he ever let us down?"
"That's not the problem, Dave. He's right way too often. It's only a matter of time before his superiors over there start putting pressure on him to toe the company line."
Rossi narrowed his eyes. "You think they'd ever get that obvious?"
"They've got a lot of juice, Dave. They're getting so powerful, it's only a matter of time until—well, until they're not gonna give a crap what people think anymore. The 'New Golden Rule' and all that."
"Yeah, 'I got the gold, so I make the rules,'" Rossi sighed. "I think I'll throw Walter and Erin an invitation to my reception tomorrow night. If she still has anything on her chest, that'll give her a chance to get it out."
"What? You're having a party and you didn't invite me?" Morgan asked with a grin.
"Sorry, no boring proles, no working class heroes," Rossi replied with a big fake yawn. "Just—interesting people."