Shark and Sparrow Chapter 3

Shark and Sparrow
Chapter 3, by Anonymous

“The Professor will see you now,” came a pleasant voice from his right. It was another of the Professor's featureless robotic servants, thin, short, and made mostly of white plastic. Commissioner Beauregarde stood up from the bench and straightened his tie. “…uh…thank you.”

If the robot was pleased by his appreciation it showed no signs of it. “Right this way, Commissioner.” It turned and walked briskly down the hallway, entering a door without waiting. Beauregarde ran to keep up. It was waiting for him on the other side. “This way please.” It walked briskly once more down a hallway as white and featureless as the robot itself. It pressed some unseen button revealing an elevator with a dark wooden interior. They both stepped in.

The doors closed…and nothing seemed to happen. The Commissioner stood there with his arms crossed waiting for the robot to press another button but there were no buttons inside to press. “Are you…erm…going to get this thing moving then?”

“I'm afraid I don't understand the question.”

The Commissioner sighed. He hated the Professor's robots. “The elevator…to see the Professor…”

“I'm afraid I don't understand the question.”

“Alright, let me ou-”

“We've arrived,” said the robot. The door opened to an immense green-house that must have been underground since he had never seen an enormous glass dome anywhere in the city. Beauregarde walked out onto the grass.

Professor Badass stood at a number of monitors and computer towers sitting on kitchen dessert carts in front of a large tree surrounded by various ferns.

“One moment, John,” he didn't even look up from his experiment. “Alright, it's going to feel a little tender, but you should start seeing improvements within the week…” A metal box with a door rose from the ground beside the tree. A man made of vegetables and fruit stepped out. It looked disgruntled. “If you'd like you can take the rest of the day off, Juan.”

“Si…” the vegetable man slouched and walked towards the elevator the Commissioner just arrived in without looking at him. The elevator and the robot disappeared.

A second robot appeared from behind the tree. Professor Badass addressed it. “Drone, I'd like you to take the cart back to the Networking Lab and perform a Hard Transfer to the Hybridization sub-folders. It should sort itself, so you won't need to babysit it.”

“Yes, Professor,” the robot began pressing buttons and disconnecting cables.

“Commissioner, walk with me,” said the Professor, looking at him for the first time since he'd arrived.

The two walked to a set of monitors built into a large tree beside a waterfall by a small hillside. The monitors showed the SPARROW unit conducting exercises.

“So you have a robot there, or something?” asked the Commissioner. He wasn't very surprised that Professor Badass had surveillance of a top secret training exercise on the outskirts of the city.

The Professor showed no emotion. “No, just a satellite.” He sat down on a rock. “Techno Viking and Dapper should be training them on the grappling hooks and jet-packs right about now.”

“A good number of the men have repelling experience,” the Commissioner saw Captain Santoros directing men off of a rooftop. “Just not in an urban environment.”

The Professor pulled out a pipe and lit it. Smoke puffed out from between his lips. “Most of the devices are smart so they'll direct themselves. It's so easy a child could do it. You don't have anything to worry about.”

The Commissioner turned from the monitors to look at the Professor. “That's where you're wrong.” Maybe it was because not many people had told the Professor that before, but his eyebrows lifted above his smoked glasses. “It's not the equipment or the weapons that really worry me, it's the people behind them.”

Professor Badass leaned forward, “Didn't you choose those people yourself? You did start the whole thing.”

Beauregarde shook his head, “That's not what I meant…but…I kicked a pebble off the top of a hill, and now it's a landslide. The city council, the mayor, people in backrooms…SPARROW's going to do it's job, but there are too many wildcards in the deck.”

The Professor stood up and took the pipe out of his mouth. “Such as?”

Beauregarde pointed at the monitor; Professor Badass turned and looked. Santoros was firing rubber bullets across a rooftop towards a target on another building. SPARROW policemen in jetpacks flew into view and fired missiles at his target. “Captain Santoros for one. But you knew that already.”

“I did,” the Professor crossed his arms. “The man's a good police,” his brow furrowed, “and an even better soldier.”

“Not to mention a war-hero,” added the Commissioner. Santoros was a lot of things, but he would never want the Professor to believe the Captain was a bad man. “He was a lock for the head of the unit, but he wasn't the right choice.”

“No,” the Professor looked back at the Commissioner. The monitors showed Techno Viking running full sprint at a number of officers, an electrified 'taser-net' brought him down. “But he was probably the best choice…follow me.”

The two walked to another elevator that seemed not to move but deposited them in a gritty shadowed concrete room seconds later.

“The people of Mainport need to know their city is safe,” began the Professor, “that there's still laws and consequences for breaking those laws…” He walked towards a pitch black hallway with cables hanging above it, the Commissioner followed. He couldn't see him but he could hear his voice “Anyone in this city can defend their lives and their livelihoods, but not everybody needs to, or should, become a vigilante.” A small bit of light returned as the Commissioner turned a corner he almost ran into. “That being said, regular folks need stability in their lives. They need a rock. A pillar. Something that they can hold onto while the world falls apart around them. Something that lets them know that Civilization, Society, and Justice are more than just human inventions.” The Commissioner turned another corner to find Professor Badass standing in front of a huge metal door. “You don't know it, but I just quoted a man who hasn't been born yet.” He stowed his pipe back in his pocket.

“I hate it when you do that,” the Commissioner smirked.

“Well, regardless, Captain Santoros is the kind of man that man was talking about,” he pressed a few buttons on a panel and the metal door began to slide with a horrible screech. “I have an idea of who else you're worried about. That's why I brought you down here.”

“Mahi,” said the Commissioner.

“Mahi,” the Professor walked into the room. Black rubber curtains shielded a hallway off in the distance. Lights flickered, casting wild shadows on the translucent curtains. “You remember that thing that attacked the waterfront?”

“Lamassu?” the Commissioner followed the Professor beyond the curtain.

“No, three weeks ago,” they came to a cavernous concrete room with a metal box the size of high school gym. “The spider…”

They walked inside the box. A massive robotic spider was chained to the floor and ceiling. Monitors and machines ran along the walls, no doubt, running tests. Dents, bullet holes, and burn marks covered the length of the beast, with sparks flying from places where a limb or two had been broken off. “The Arachnobot…” the Commissioner was under the impression that it sank to the bottom of the shipyards. “How the hell did you transport this across the city?”

The Professor walked over to a monitor and struck a few buttons. “I didn't. It's been wandering the sewers and tunnels under Mainport for two weeks now. It's been badly damaged, so when it was 'resting' my team took the opportunity to render it immobile.”

The Commissioner saw what looked like a number of twisted broken robots underneath the Arachnobot's thorax. He crouched down closer to see if he was correct, “Are those-”

The Arachnobot lunged forward at him with a horrific metal scream. The hundreds of chains holding it in place struggled to restrain it. The Commissioner jumped back and the Professor caught him. “You're alright…it can't escape…” Beauregarde wanted to believe him, but he could see that there were plenty of loose chains hanging from off the Arachnobot already.

“You haven't deactivated that…thing?”

“The creature's incredibly durable…” the Professor almost looked sheepish, almost, “plus its software is designed to corrupt itself at the moment that it becomes inoperable. If we brought down the hammer on it, we'd never find out how it was made.”

“I don't understand,” the Commissioner brought himself to his feet. He continued to stare at the thing as it moved from side to side, straining against the chains, trying to find a way to escape. “You're from the future…couldn't you just, I don't know, just hook it up to a computer?”

The Professor stroked his beard, “Imagine that you're a computer programmer. You're sent back in time to the late 19th century and told to construct a computer from scratch. You have to reinvent half a dozen technologies just to get enough power to run the thing, and then you have to commission blacksmiths to make wire, chemists to make plastic, galvanizers to make rubber, and so on. All on your own dime by the way. And then the natives hand you one of their ancient calculators with punching cards and vacuum tubes and say that it's broken. 'Hook it up to the Future Machine you're making, magic man! Surely the fucking thing will fix itself!'”

“Alright, alright,” the Commissioner didn't want to pressure the man. “So what does this have to do with Mahi?”

He pointed at a screen. “On paper, absolutely nothing,” the screen showed meaningless technical data. “But if you look behind the code you'll start seeing things. Like here, lourisopt1.exe. It's a program installed in the robot's eyes that pieces together the visual data from all of it's cameras which allows it to judge distances and construct a fluid virtual layout of it's immediate area.” The Commissioner didn't quite catch on and it showed. Arachnobot climbed ten feet up the chains before falling back down and becoming more entangled. “Ignore all that, the point is, that lourisopt2, the updated version of it was used in security cameras, military equipment, and spy satellites, but the first incarnation, lourisopt1, was only used in…cybernetic implants.”

“Cyborgs?”

“Yes. Agent Alpha to be specific. Agent Alpha of MultiMed to be even more specific,” the Professor pulled out and his pipe and relit it. “Someone with access to MultiMed technologies helped construct Arachnobot. I can't be sure, but if we can extract enough data from it….” the Professor looked at Arachnobot. One of it's legs had wrapped around too many chains and was bending dangerously close to the breaking point.

The Commissioner shook his head, “So what else? How does this tie back to Mahi? MahiCorp and MultiMed are competitors.”

“I have this hacker-for-hire working on it. He can't tell me anything yet besides the fact that MultiMed just gained a silent partner who bought thirty percent of the total shares,” the Arachnobot went back to it's immobile state. A few of the chains were still swinging back and forth. “It could be a number of people, but I'm willing to bet you it's the Terror From Tonga himself. If he's willing to invest enough resources to make this thing, then he'll probably make a move to get his foot into SPARROW's door.”

The Commissioner walked back to the entrance of Arachnobot's tomb. “He already has. He helped donate half of the SPARROW unit's equipment.”

Professor Badass looked uncharacteristically surprised, “Are you sure?”

“I'm one of ten people who know the names of all the donors. When SPARROW goes public in a few weeks it'll be released to everyone.”

“He donated the money and you took it?” The Professor looked genuinely angry.

“It was out of my hands,” the Commissioner wasn't afraid of taking flack, but he never took the blame for other people's mistakes. “If it wasn't through MahiCorp it was through one of his dummy companies, but a lot of it comes from him…”

“So you people just take any money they throw at you,” the Professor started to lose his cool. “Never mind that it's blood money! Let's put a plaque in the main precinct to commemorate your generous donation!”

“I thought you knew what I was talking about when I said I was worried Mahi was involved!” the Commissioner frowned. The Professor was usually three steps ahead of him.

“I thought you meant he was going to bribe your officers! But I guess he won't have to now since the entire unit's already buried in his wallet!”

“I can assure you, these men were picked based on their integrity and intuitiveness. I may not have signed off on all of them, but they're all good people,” he wasn't entirely certain of how thorough the people-in-back-rooms were in their search for upstanding cops actually. In fact, he was somewhat worried. But for the most part, he trusted that the SPARROW boys were going to shine and he didn't want Professor Badass to doubt him in this. “Mahi talked to me after our first debriefing. He says he helped because he wants to keep the city from destroying itself…”

The Professor stroked his beard again. “He could be telling the truth,” he seemed to calm down a little. “He's invested a lot of time and energy into this city…”

“I think he wants the SPARROW unit there to keep the peace between him and Boss…the Boss,” said the Commissioner. Professor Badass was black, he wasn't sure how he'd take the 'N' word coming out of his mouth.

“I guess the gang war brewing between him and Boss Negro has been harder to keep off the streets…he probably gave money to SPARROW so he wouldn't have to invest so much time and money into fighting the man,” the Professor seemed calm again. “It may just have been the first genuine thing he's done his whole life…”

“Regardless, I'm having a police-van sent here from SPARROW headquarters,” said the Commissioner, “with weapons and parts from the equipment he donated. I want you to take a look at it,” said the Commissioner.

The Professor suddenly seemed very interested. “Yes…yes that's a good idea. Great idea, in fact. If he's bringing you any computers then bring them all here, or better yet, get me into the Headquarters and I'll take a look at them there. I'll have to get the recryption cube out of storage so I don't trigger any tripwires…” it was obvious to Beauregarde that the Professor's mind was in problem-solving mode. He'd most likely ignore all pleasantries until he began work on the equipment.

“If you can get me back upstairs, then I'll have an escort sent by.”

The Professor walked him back to the elevator. “If the weapons were retrofitted with electronic surveillance devices then it'll be easier to detect, but if it's already built into the internal systems themselves then he'll have an eye on every SPARROW gun in the city…” the Professor seemed to be rambling.

When they reached the entrance the Commissioner smiled. The Professor continued to make plans in his head up to the point that they reached the front door. “Hook them up to your Future Machine, magic man…” said the Commissioner heading out the door.

Professor Badass smirked, nodded his head, and went back inside.

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