Thank you dear readers! And please PLEASE feel free to complain if something doesn't make sense, I'm bad about under-explaining.


Days passed. Then one morning the elevator doors parted on different guards, who stood in the corners and kept their guns at a safe distance. You could have fit a grand piano in there, and he knelt on a wet metal floor, clean but for an S of bloody hair stuck to the wall. They rushed to the penthouse, light as a soap bubble, and the doors chimed open.

"Leave us, but don't go far."

A chair was found for Holmes and the blindfold came away. He blew the hair out of his eyes and studied the shadow seated across the room. "Mister Mayor."

The Officer opened his hand, and the guard walked out, closing the door with a soft click but not taking his hand from the knob. The Officer did a quarter turn in his chair. "Here," he said, pushing a silver case across to Holmes, "For lack of bread and salt."

Holmes smiled and took a cigarette, smoke curling up one side of his face as he surveyed the office. A heavy desk, a pull-string lamp on top of a map, a computer screen bolted to the wall and angled away so that it reflected the back of the Officer's head and no one else.

"How's business?" asked Holmes, his voice flat.

The Officer leaned forward. "Slow."

Holmes shifted the cigarette to the corner of his mouth as the Officer rested his hand beside the lamp, the light cutting him off at the wrist. He wore a gauntlet, leather the color of putty with a hard shell across the back. Holmes closed his eyes on a long pull, then blew thin streams of smoke through his nose. "Nice stuff you got there."

"Been a long time since your last hit. I'm surprised you didn't come in here on all fours."

Holmes swallowed, one ankle twisted around a chair leg. He tried to keep his words light. "I hate partying alone."

The Officer pressed a crease in the map. "Do you know how many municipal cameras are in operation?"

"One for every citizen?"

"One for every deed. One for every possible motive. One for every blade of grass. With enough surveillance technology, we can achieve a quantum superposition," he said, spreading both hands to flatten the city into two dimensions, "And right the paths of men before they misstep."

"We?"

"Yes. I don't believe in tyrannies. I am putting power in the hands of individuals."

"By watching everyone at once."

"And eventually even that won't be necessary. Once the initial disciplinary wave phases out, people will correct themselves. It is only after we shake out the avoidable crimes that society can flourish. I trust," he said curtly, "That you will offer every assistance."

"And those who still don't play nice?"

The Officer remained still. "That will require...decisive action."

Holmes turned it over in his head. A planned city, starved of options, kept in check by a generic fear of the closed-circuit gaze. He tapped ashes on the rug. "How about you go for a piss," he said, eyes glittering, "And I'll tell you how hard to shake it?"

Rising, the Officer walked around the desk with two fingers trailing the edge. The light threw his riot gear into sharp relief, plastic flesh-tone musculature covering his entire body with a nub crotch and dimpled smile painted onto his helmet. His boots did not mark the carpet, nor did his breath steam the inside of his mask. And in this gleaming doll body he lifted Holmes from his chair and flung him to the ground.

"You will fix my machines and you will do it..." he said, his voice like steel inside the helmet, "Right...now you little brat!"

His knees bracketed the detective's waist, grabbing his hair with one hand while pummeling him with the other. "What will you do when the drug dealers leave town?" he said, dropping a plated fist into soft flesh, "What will you do then, when you find your brain blue-screening every thirty seconds from detox? Where is your brilliant hacker, where is the Feynmanesque mystique, where are the lines coming off the name 'Sherlock Holmes'?"

Holmes spat out a red mouthful, static buzzing in his left ear. "Stop it! Stop, I yield!"

He curled into a ball, and the Officer stood to dust off his hands. He sneered. "You're not so mysterious."

Holmes ran his tongue over his teeth. "The software will take...some time," he said, coughing blood onto the carpet, "I have to get some things from back home-"

"Oh no," said the Officer, opening a drawer, "I think we both require a vote of confidence."

Holmes rolled onto his elbow as a pen and binder were placed on the desk. The Officer stood over him, his shadow running the length of the room. "In the time of your absence, no fewer than six department heads have received copies of the Municipal Terms and Conditions from your IP address, my office included," he said, rolling the pen on the desk, "Why?"

Holmes steadied himself against the chair, shoulders slumped. "Because you're right."

The Officer turned his head a fraction. "Am I now?"

"Yes," he said, looking away, "After some time studying your methods, I found superficial ticks in the technology that spoke of deeper flaws at the root. I had to act. I mean, this could really work, but I needed more information. And the only way for me to see the big picture...to see you..." he said, meeting his eyes, "Was to crash the system."

The Officer's heart thumped against it's shell, like a bee in a coffee can. "So you'll follow me?"

He covered the Officer's hand, the one holding the pen. "London has been static for too long," he said quietly, "We need someone to decide for us."

"But if you sign now...your crime is great. They'll kill you for this."

"I'm not afraid to die."

Still touching the gauntlet, Holmes signed his name on the dotted line, and invited the Officer to sign as a witness. He removed the helmet, his eyes like black glass set in his handsome face. "You're a remarkable man, Mister Holmes," he said, touching the detective's cheek, "How long will it take for the system to get back online?"

"Oh that, I've had it on a timer since the beginning," said Holmes, straightening as the soldiers in the hallway grew closer, "We've been online for the last thirty minutes."

The door sprang open, and a forest of assault rifles swarmed inside, all pointed at the Officer's head. He spun around to Holmes. "What have you done?!"

Holmes smiled, and helped himself to another cigarette as a bag was pulled over the Officer's head. Before his arrest, it had been the work of a few minutes to replace each instance of 'the signed' with 'the witness' in the city's contract. He inhaled, and watched smoke coil in the black reflection of the computer screen.

"You didn't read the fine print."


FINE