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Trinity RPG: Quantum of Hope - Chapter I: Knights of New Avalon

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A Quantum of Hope

Lothian and Borders Home Guard Office; Edinburgh; July 3rd, 2122

“Ah. Uh’ve been wunderin’ when yoo lot wud arrive,” meaty, carrot-topped Sergeant Feargan MacDonald unashamedly closes down an OpNet dating site page to haul himself out of his cheap office chair and shake each of your hands with a giant, sweaty and yet strangely careful hand. “FEER-gan Mac Dohn-uld, Pleased t’meet ya” He’s the sort of man that can rumple a morning suit by looking at it, and his black Home Guard uniform hasn’t fared any better - and you’d guess he was a size or two smaller around the middle when it was issued.

Feargan nods respectfully as you introduce yourselves - apparently committing your names to memory.

“Senior Operative Alistair Reynalds” your immaculately suited ‘Evaluator’ replies in the polished tones that they seem to hand out at Eton for a small fortune in tuition.

“Can I ohffer you gentlemen a wee cup of tea, or a cohffee?”

“We were well catered for on the MagLev from London, Sergeant, so please, let’s dispense with the pleasantries,” Reynalds says as he brushes an imagined bit of lint from his tailored suit jacket.

“We’ve reviewed the salient points of the files en route, but it might be helpful if you can talk us through events from your perspective.”

The sergeant nods slowly and scratches at the side of his mouth. “Aye, Right. We can well do that for you.” He waves a fleshy hand at the plastic chairs in front of his cluttered desk and sits back down himself.

“We’ve seen a bit of a rise in our missing perrsons over the last few months. Nothing, massive you understand... just a bit above the normal. Mostly down in the Frehnch Quarter, sorry - I mean down by the sewage worrks where we have quite a few Europeans housed. That sort of thing doesn’t show up on our radar much... but in context of thus. Well, it bohthers me.”

“Oh-K, So, last Thurrsday a Mr Wulliam Logan, a contractor from Abernathy and Finlay Waste Management, was doing maintenance on some natural waste recyclers over at the university. He found thrree bohdies in the machine’s hohpper – all of them in prutty much the sayme staite. The skin of their faces and hands had been removed leaving their flehsh exposed. The thing is, right, the machine wud have been running that afternoon if the maintenance hadn’t happened, and that was overdue by more than a month. Mr Logan also found that the machine’s safety sensor had been deactivated – quite expertly he says. So we haven’t got any idea how many more bohdies there might have been. We’ve got some people over there now having a look at it and suchlike.”

“Anyway, that in itsehlf might be enough for the Captain to call London, but there’s even more. We bring the bohdies back here to the Station for examination by Doc Fraser, right, when one of our forreign Psion guests, here to update his papers, starts wailing a madman… He says we have an aberrant in the station. So we break out the heavy wehpons and line everyone up and everyone takes the test. Eventually we figure out it’s not anyone… but this mad Swiss goes ‘Noo, I can still feel it’ and wanders about the building and finally gets to the corpses, and ‘e says ‘These are aberrants!’. That was when we booked the daftie for time wasting. Course, that meahnt he’s still here for you to interview. His name is Marcel Vogel, and he’s one of those Ayesculaypiuhns. Says he’s going to be mussed if he’s not back in Basel at the end of the week, but I says he stull has two months worth of holding without charge to go and that shut him right up.”

“We’ve identified the bohdies from the DNA rehgustry, though Doc Fraser had some trouble - said there’d been some odd cellular degeneration. All three of them are foreigners. One German exchange student, one Irish bartender and one Spanish sex worker. All around the university at one time or another. Other than that there’s no tie between them that I can see.”

“Let me know if and whehn you want to talk to Mr Vogel – we had to isolate him from the others in lockup after he broke a drunk’s arm and made himself unpohpular.”

“So, my remit is pretty clear, if we hear anything that might suhggest an aberrant we call yourselves. I’m noht sure thus quahlifies, but we might have a serial killer on our hands at the very least.”

Reynalds steeples his fingers and considers – clearly deciding to fall back into his ‘Evaluator’ role.

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“FEER-gan Mac Dohn-uld, Pleased t’meet ya” He’s the sort of man that can rumple a morning suit by looking at it, and his black Home Guard uniform hasn’t fared any better - and you’d guess he was a size or two smaller around the middle when it was issued.

Feargan nods respectfully as you introduce yourselves - apparently committing your names to memory.

“Senior Operative Alistair Reynalds” your immaculately suited ‘Evaluator’ replies in the polished tones that they seem to hand out at Eton for a small fortune in tuition.

"Operative Edmund Carlton-Sandways," Edmund introduces himself in much the same fashion, shaking the sergeant's hand in a short, firm grip.

The sergeant nods slowly and scratches at the side of his mouth. “Aye, Right. We can well do that for you.” He waves a fleshy hand at the plastic chairs in front of his cluttered desk and sits back down himself.

Taking a seat in front of the desk, Edmund takes a moment to look around the office before focusing on the home guardsman. As the sergeant does his briefing, Edmund listens in silence, only nodding in acknowledgement now and then.

“We’ve seen a bit of a rise in our missing perrsons over the last few months. Nothing, massive you understand... just a bit above the normal. Mostly down in the Frehnch Quarter, sorry - I mean down by the sewage worrks where we have quite a few Europeans housed. That sort of thing doesn’t show up on our radar much... but in context of thus. Well, it bohthers me.”

[...]

“So, my remit is pretty clear, if we hear anything that might suhggest an aberrant we call yourselves. I’m noht sure thus quahlifies, but we might have a serial killer on our hands at the very least.”

Knowing Reynalds won't interfere for a while, Edmund shifts his weight and leans forward to draw the sergeant's attention. His eyes narrow for a brief moment as he mentally assesses the information one more time, then he nods his agreement with the sergeant.

"You did the right thing, Sergeant," he starts, military habit adding strength and weight to the words.

"Whether this killer is an aberrant or not remains to be seen, but we'll take it from here. We definitely will need to interview Mr Vogel, and also take a look at where the bodies where found and talk to your.. people there."

"You said your medical examiner encountered some problems identifying the bodies? We shall have to talk to him about the details as well."

Sandways' straightens up a bit, glancing at his colleagues before focusing on the sergeant again.

"Now, I have a few questions. How much of this has leaked to the public? If these bodies were discovered last thursday as you say, has anyone suspicious been seen around the recyclers? I assume you've heightened your alertness in the general university area?"

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Knowing Reynalds won't interfere for a while, Edmund shifts his weight and leans forward to draw the sergeant's attention. His eyes narrow for a brief moment as he mentally assesses the information one more time, then he nods his agreement with the sergeant.

"You did the right thing, Sergeant," he starts, military habit adding strength and weight to the words.

"Whether this killer is an aberrant or not remains to be seen, but we'll take it from here. We definitely will need to interview Mr Vogel, and also take a look at where the bodies where found and talk to your.. people there."

"You said your medical examiner encountered some problems identifying the bodies? We shall have to talk to him about the details as well."

The sergeant nods resignedly once Edmund has finished speaking.

”Aye. I thought you might at that. Doc Fraser has the bohdies on ice down in the lab and has been champing ah the bit to get you professional types to loook at them since they were brought in. I think he may have been hoping that you were Psions actually.” Feargan raises a sternly questioning eyebrow, but then continues before anyone has a chance to speak.

”Of course, our guehst in lohckup awaits your pleasure. Jum Morrison of the forensic squad is back down there at the university examining. He as had someone on the case twenty four - sehven. "

'So, just say where would you like to start.”

Sandways' straightens up a bit, glancing at his colleagues before focusing on the sergeant again.

"Now, I have a few questions. How much of this has leaked to the public? If these bodies were discovered last thursday as you say, has anyone suspicious been seen around the recyclers? I assume you've heightened your alertness in the general university area?"

Feargan sighs. ”Aye, thuh the press have gotten wind. A reporter for the Guardian, name of Theresa Flowers, has been harassing us for details, but I’ve put her off for now wuth the ‘Ongoing Investigation’ line. She knew about the Ahberrant angle already - you can imagine that would have been impohssible to stop wuth the way it happened. I told her if she held off publishing anything beyond the basics for now she could interview Vogel when you lot were done with him. So, if you don’t want that to happen I suhppose you deport him back to Swissland or wherever.”

Feargan wipes a bead of sweat from his brow.

“As far as I can tehll the wee lass kneu pruhtty much everything but the identities of the bohdies. She’s only hesitating for the psion aberrrant angle. You know, Shock Factor stuff.”

“Waht was your other question again? Oh, the vacinity? Aye, we’ve increased our presence in the area, and prioritized the local cameras. The recyclers aren’t specifically monitored - not deemed a property risk, see. And, thuh problem wuth the rest is the bloody stupid students are constantly parading around deliberrately being suspicious looking to bait us. They call us the bloody ‘Stasi’ you know. You know what that is?” At this stage Feargan’s colour has risen past ruddy, and could probably be used for some sort of reading lamp.

”They’re bloody Krauts, that’s what. Bloody communist Krauts. I had to look them up. “

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During the introductions George would have introduced himself simply with a firm handshake and "George Kalnan" in his Camelot accent, now made indistinct by so many years in the melting pot of the fleet.

When the Sgt starts his explaination subvocalise to Nev his mincomp agent to record the meeting from his own sight/sound data stream. It's fairly typical of him, it gives him the oppurtunity to re-examine things to make sure he hasn't missed any relevant data for the future.

Once the others have finished George will add his comments/questions to the pile...

"I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with how long you keep your camera records in this area, would they go back far enough to be of any help? And if so is there any cameras internal or external to adjacent buildings that might give an indication of who was using the recycler building or area on the days of the murders."

"Were the bodies found naked, or dressed? Have their clothes been examined for any clues as to locations they may have been in, fibres or stains etc?"

"Your medical examiner mentioned the skilled use of a scalpel in removing the skin of those areas, what level of skill would be required and could you build up a short list of who within the University departments is likely to possess such skill. Similarly I assume the ME was talking of a metal scalpel, rather than a laser one, so which departments within the university would have such items and are there any controls upon access to them?"

"The Stasi? Yes, I've heard of them, East German secret police formed around 1950 and disbanded during the temporary reunification of germany in about 1990. Were renowned for have a vast array of informants, mainly through coercion and so equally vast amounts of data on virtually every member of the population. I hardly think it's a fair comparison on your officiers, whose only concern at this time is for the safety and security of those very students."

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Once the others have finished George will add his comments/questions to the pile...

"I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with how long you keep your camera records in this area, would they go back far enough to be of any help? And if so is there any cameras internal or external to adjacent buildings that might give an indication of who was using the recycler building or area on the days of the murders."

Feargan scratches the side of his mouth again. ”Aye we keep the records for two weeks around the univerrsity. Mostly the little sods limit themselves to light vandalism and burrning the Union flag. We’ve had agents examine the camera records, but the recycler is located in the basement of a building connected to a bunch of others. The hohpper is accessible internally, and through a garbage chute from rear of the building whuch isn’t monitored. So, so far we’ve had no luck with identifying suspicious packages going in dirrectly, and an awful lot of flase pohsitives throughout the univerrsity. It may be a luttle clearrer when you go over and talk to Jum, but as I understand it the recycler works by separating organic and inorganic mater wuth acids and bacteria. It’s supposed to compact inorganic matter for removal, and produce fertilizer that gets used in the University gardens, and on the Blackford Glen behind.”

"Were the bodies found naked, or dressed? Have their clothes been examined for any clues as to locations they may have been in, fibres or stains etc?"

”Eh, now that you mention it that is probably relevant. The two men, they were naked, but the lass was fully clothed. Apparently her clothes were so caked in biowaste from the hohpper and chemical fumes from the recycler that their forrensic value has pretty much been destroyed.”

"Your medical examiner mentioned the skilled use of a scalpel in removing the skin of those areas, what level of skill would be required and could you build up a short list of who within the University departments is likely to possess such skill. Similarly I assume the ME was talking of a metal scalpel, rather than a laser one, so which departments within the university would have such items and are there any controls upon access to them?"

Feargan hesitates a moment and thinks carefully before answering this question. [Looking more than a bit taken aback by the request to all the trained investigators in the room]

”Ehh... I don’t rightly know on the lehvel of skill. I’m sure Doc Fraser can hehlp you on that one. I guess once you know that you can ask the Univerrsity for the who had the access and the skill.”

"The Stasi? Yes, I've heard of them, East German secret police formed around 1950 and disbanded during the temporary reunification of germany in about 1990. Were renowned for have a vast array of informants, mainly through coercion and so equally vast amounts of data on virtually every member of the population. I hardly think it's a fair comparison on your officiers, whose only concern at this time is for the safety and security of those very students."

”Aye, they’re all frriendly and ‘Come in Come in We’re so please to see ya’ now when they need us. Too bad they’ve mehssed us up so much when they dinna.” ::angry

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”Eh, now that you mention it that is probably relevant. The two men, they were naked, but the lass was fully clothed. Apparently her clothes were so caked in biowaste from the hohpper and chemical fumes from the recycler that their forrensic value has pretty much been destroyed.”
"We may be after a woman, then," Edmund muses, idly rubbing his chin. "Males undressed and female not could indicate a female perpetrator's sexual approach, specially with one of the victims most likely to be heterosexual."
Feargan hesitates a moment and thinks carefully before answering this question. [Looking more than a bit taken aback by the request to all the trained investigators in the room]

”Ehh... I don’t rightly know on the lehvel of skill. I’m sure Doc Fraser can hehlp you on that one. I guess once you know that you can ask the Univerrsity for the who had the access and the skill.”

”Aye, they’re all frriendly and ‘Come in Come in We’re so please to see ya’ now when they need us. Too bad they’ve mehssed us up so much when they dinna.” ::angry
Edmund nods his agreement to both statements, taking this as his cue to get up. He buttons his suit jacket and addresses both the sergeant and his colleague.

"I think we need to go talk to the psion first, then see Dr. Frasier and the bodies, to get a better idea of what we're dealing with here. Then we'll move on to the crime scene and further investigations."

Unless Kalnan has any immediate objections, Edmund then gestures for the sergeant to lead the way.

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George will get up ready to follow Edmund out whle commenting, "I doubt the recycler is the actual crime scene, merely where the evidence was found. Finding the actual scene or scenes of the murders will be much harder, and take us much closer to finding the culprit."

"Do you have a dossier we could see on this psion Sergeant?"

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"We may be after a woman, then," Edmund muses, idly rubbing his chin. "Males undressed and female not could indicate a female perpetrator's sexual approach, specially with one of the victims most likely to be heterosexual."

Feargan looks a bit surprised by this idea. As if it hadn’t crossed his mind.

”Aye, I suppose. Could wehll be.” he says by way of recovery.

Edmund nods his agreement to both statements, taking this as his cue to get up. He buttons his suit jacket and addresses both the sergeant and his colleague.

Reynalds gets up also, and likewise does up his Kostbaar suit jacket with a sort of sick elegance. “Sergeant,” he says, “just a thought, but have you conducted any interviews of the next of kin?”

”Wehll, noo. We werre waiting for yourselves.”

“So, you haven’t informed them yet?” Alistair’s tone is icy.

”Wehll noo... We...”

“That’s quite alright, Sergeant... we will deal with it.”

And as simply as that it’s as if the temperature in the room has dropped ten degrees.

"I think we need to go talk to the psion first, then see Dr. Frasier and the bodies, to get a better idea of what we're dealing with here. Then we'll move on to the crime scene and further investigations."

”OhK. I’ll show you to the lohckup,” Feargan says with a reproachful glance at Reynalds.

Edmund then gestures for the sergeant to lead the way.

George will get up ready to follow Edmund out while commenting, "I doubt the recycler is the actual crime scene, merely where the evidence was found. Finding the actual scene or scenes of the murders will be much harder, and take us much closer to finding the culprit."

"Do you have a dossier we could see on this psion Sergeant?"

Feargan nods, “I dud think you might want to know that,” opens a drawer, rummages around for a few seconds before pulling out a datachip marked with the letters P:M.V. and slides it over in George’s direction. He then proceeds to lifts his bulk from his chair, and lead the group through the busy, ammonia-and-peach-blossom smelling station to a set of lifts where each of you is asked,by a low quality SI voice to look into an obvious camera for retinal scanning purposes. [this is quite normal]

A few claustrophobic seconds later you’re on the eighth floor, where a pair of extremely short haired guardsmen are standing to attention. Their post is a room not much larger than Feargan’s office, with two doors leading off - one clearly marked as a unisex lavatory, the other heavily reinforced. The only furniture is a large faux-wood desk and two plastic chairs. A bank of eight old, flat-screen displays covers the wall opposite the lift. An initial glance is enough to confirm that only three are occupied.

”Marrshal and McIntyre, these are the guehsts we were expecting from London. Check them in to see Dr Vogel,” Feargan rumbles.

The larger of the two guardsmen, Cpl. L. Marshall by his silvered name badge smiles a touch uncertainly at the besuited visitors. ”Eh, can I have your weapons please. Put thehm on the table there, and I’ll print you a receipt.” The guardsman indicates the all too obvious table, and unclips a battered looking old mini-comp with an obvious receipt printer attachment from his belt.

[if you want to argue this point feel free, but I’ll continue in the interests of getting on with it ;p Reynalds doesn’t make any obvious objections to the request anyway]

If you comply you are handed receipt chits for your weapons, and the four of you are shown through the reinforced door. On the far side of the door is a dull brown corridor featuring white painted reinforced doors numbered one through eight. The third door swings open with an electric hum.

Feargan gestures for you to proceed. Beyond the door the cell is divided in half by horizontal perspex-like bars.

On the ‘just visiting’ side of the bars there are four nasty plastic chairs.

On the ‘do not pass begin’ side there is a narrow cot, a treadmill, a writing desk attached to the wall - on which rests an ancient entertainment comp. In one corner there’s a privacy screen and a shower faucet.

Of course all of this is far less important to you all than the man sitting on the cot reading what appears to be a Gideon’s Bible. Vogel looks up at you all, brushing an errant strand of hair away from one eye. He tilts his head slightly giving you all quick appraising glances - adam’s apple bobbing all the while.

”I do not believe that you can all be my lawyer, and your clothing is too good to be anything but British Secret Service. Am I right?” His accent bears only a trace of germanic to it.

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Edmund calmly follows the sergeant through the station, making a mental note of Reynalds' comment and reminding himself not to jump to conclusions.

Assumption is the mother of failure, Ed. Just because you're not dealing with 2-ton aberrants trying to rip your armour to shreds doesn't mean you can afford to slip up.

Taking his cue from the veteran agent, Edmund hands over his weapon without any objections, pockets the receipt and heads into the cell. As he notices the four chairs he takes one and pulls it away - placing it against the wall, facing it - leaving no chair for the sergeant if he should plan to join them in the room. If that not so subtle hint fails to keep the home guardsman out of the room, he'll stop the sergeant as he enters, not proceeding with Vogel until the agents are alone with him.

That done, he faces the psion, his eyes gliding over the man, appraising him in turn.

”I do not believe that you can all be my lawyer, and your clothing is too good to be anything but British Secret Service. Am I right?” His accent bears only a trace of germanic to it.

One corner of Sandways' mouth curves upwards in a hint of a smile as he meets Vogel's eyes. He stands at a comfortable military ease, both hands behind his back.

"There is no such thing anymore, Dr Vogel. The Secret Service and all its sibling organizations have been replaced by the Integrated Intelligence Service," he replies, not really answering the question. ::cool

After a brief pause, the rookie agent takes a seat and seems to relax a little bit, crossing one leg over the other as he addresses the prisoner.

"First of all, let me assure you it is not our intention to keep you here longer than necessary. We require your assistance in an ongoing investigation, and as long as you cooperate, this'll work out just fine. So lets keep this civil, short and to the point, shall we? Good."

"Now. We have been told that you claim three bodies brought here for examination were - or are - in fact aberrants. Please elaborate, and go easy on the noetic and æsculapian terminology."

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George picks up the datachip from the desk and methodically checks and reads the data into his minicomp. Can't be too careful with these regional offices, it doesn't look like they will have the latest protocols implemented out here. Then he will beam a copy of the data over a shortrange link to Edmunds minicomp via their implants and bodynets, highlighting the fact that the psion had been visiting the university biosciences dept(s).

As they get the lift he will raise one more question with the Sergeant, "Sergeant, you mentioned that the recycler was in the basement of a building which adjoined other buildings, would any of those have been part of the Bioscience Dept by any chance?"

When they get to the weapon checkpoint he will smile resignedly and remove his weapons - 9mm in shoulder holster, 'swiss army' knife in pocket, another knife on the left wrist/forearm and holdout laser on left ankle, accepting the reciept from the guard and moving on into the cells area.

Inside the cell he will follow Edmunds lead until they have the initial round of answers.

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George picks up the datachip from the desk and methodically checks and reads the data into his minicomp. Can't be too careful with these regional offices, it doesn't look like they will have the latest protocols implemented out here.

George’s agent reports the chip to be clean, although the volume is mislabeled ‘Dr McKeon Kendrick Wallace’.

As they get the lift he will raise one more question with the Sergeant, "Sergeant, you mentioned that the recycler was in the basement of a building which adjoined other buildings, would any of those have been part of the Bioscience Dept by any chance?"

Feargan looks at you sharply.

“Aye. I think so. Well, at least the biosciences labs is cerrtainly in that area. I had a case down there a few months agoh. Well, not so much a case - more of a tidying up after an unrrelated incident. Why? Do you thunk it’s relevant?”

Taking his cue from the veteran agent, Edmund hands over his weapon without any objections, pockets the receipt and heads into the cell. As he notices the four chairs he takes one and pulls it away - placing it against the wall, facing it - leaving no chair for the sergeant if he should plan to join them in the room.

Sergeant MacDonald stands in the doorway for a second, looking both hurt and worried. ”Aye... you have things to do...” he says under his breath.

”Right, gentlemen, I’ll be back at my desk if you need me.” The sergeant departs. You hear the door to the guardroom hum closed.

One corner of Sandways' mouth curves upwards in a hint of a smile as he meets Vogel's eyes. He stands at a comfortable military ease, both hands behind his back.

"There is no such thing anymore, Dr Vogel. The Secret Service and all its sibling organizations have been replaced by the Integrated Intelligence Service," he replies, not really answering the question.

Vogel grunts faintly amused acknowledgement at this - clearly chalking himself up a victory.

Reynalds moves his chair slightly so as to better observe the prisoner, probably deliberately causing it to squeak across the concrete as he does so. He then sits, and relaxedly fastens his gaze on Vogel. While this might seem comical in a classroom, somehow in this setting he manages to make it seem predatory.

Vogel steadily avoids Reynalds gaze - forcing him to pay closer attention to George and Edmund as a consequence.

After a brief pause, the rookie agent takes a seat and seems to relax a little bit, crossing one leg over the other as he addresses the prisoner.

"First of all, let me assure you it is not our intention to keep you here longer than necessary. We require your assistance in an ongoing investigation, and as long as you cooperate, this'll work out just fine. So lets keep this civil, short and to the point, shall we? Good."

Vogel seems equal parts nervousness and defiance - going so far as to crack a supercilious half grin whilst blinking far too rapidly.

"Now. We have been told that you claim three bodies brought here for examination were - or are - in fact aberrants. Please elaborate, and go easy on the noetic and æsculapian terminology."

Vogel sighs. He puts down the bible. He seems to very briefly consider - but it's clear he made up his mind on this some time ago. ”First I will say that I have done nothing but co-operate. That is why I am here - in this cell. Not because I withheld information, but because I co-operated. I co-operated and you took away my passport.”

He holds up a hand to forestall any interruptions.

”I will continue to co-operate not because I have no choice. I will co-operate because I have sworn the oath of Hippocrates. I will warn you though, that should I not be allowed to return to Basel fairly soon, that there could be consequences.”

“As for your aberrants. I think I may have been wrong. I did not get very long to examine the bodies, but I sensed something I call... Sticky yes; I sensed something I call ‘Sticky Taint’ on them.”

He gains momentum - clearly he has spoken on the subject before, although perhaps not in English.

“Even most Psions, think Taint is Taint, but I have studied Taint diseases and dead aberrants and I have determined that there are different kinds of Taint. Normally Taint is like oil? You understand? You throw oil on water and it floats on top. You can see it quite easily in the sunlight by the slick, how the light shines off it differently, and how the water below does not ripple as much. Sticky taint is like resin or like tar - you follow? - you throw it into water and it diffuses very little. It creates a ripple and it sinks. It is less dangerous than the oil on the water, up until you step into it. Then you find out that it is much more concentrated that it’s much harder to get off.”

“So, I think that your dead bodies are either dead aberrants - and powerful ones - or, and I now think that this is more likely given that that they were all murdered and not doing the slaughter, they were exposed to a very strong source of Sticky Taint. What could that be? It could be a high threat aberrant, maybe, or it could be a very very high, very very concentrated Sticky Taint source.”

“So that was me co-operating. Can I now go?”

::unsure

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Great thinks George, there is a chance we wont have to get directly involved with an Aberrant

"So Doctor, your visa is inaccurate, you were actually here to investigate Taint diseases?"

"Other than a high power Aberrant, what form could this Sticky Taint source take? For example could it be a location, or the remains of an Aberrant, or some form of Aberrant technology? Since the bodies were found in or around the Biosciences dept at the University we would like to know the names of anyone you had contact with there and what research you discussed with them?"

Start my agent compiling a list of all researchers (MSc and up) and there projects in the Bioscience dept or using one of the building attached to the recyclers location. Highlight anything mentioning Taint or Aberrants or that could imply those terms.

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Great thinks George, there is a chance we wont have to get directly involved with an Aberrant

"So Doctor, your visa is inaccurate, you were actually here to investigate Taint diseases?"

Vogel shrugs just a little sheepishly. ”No. I was sent here to study French Flu’ in London, but seeing as that was a complete waste of time; a joke on me maybe; I decided to spend some time helping those who might actually be helped by my skills.”

"Other than a high power Aberrant, what form could this Sticky Taint source take? For example could it be a location, or the remains of an Aberrant, or some form of Aberrant technology? Since the bodies were found in or around the Biosciences dept at the University we would like to know the names of anyone you had contact with there and what research you discussed with them?"

Vogel looks thoughtful. ”Ja, maybe, it could be something like that. As I say normally the Sticky Taint is around the very strong aberrants, and with those it is very hard to know what to expect. Also it can take a very long time to diffuse into the environment, so it might be quite old.”

“I spoke to Dr Chang at the Biosciences department, about her student who contracted Wexler’s disease and her about her research, but she did not want to talk to me. I think someone told her not to speak to any foreigners, maybe?”

He looks a more than a little accusatory by the end of this exchange.

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"Having just reviewed her record Dr Vogel I don't believe that to be the case. I think she was more concerned about how her student came to contract Wexler's in the first place. I believe such Taint diseases are not normally contagious?"

"Is there any indications that Taint diseases are more common close to areas of high Taint?"

"Perhaps your Sticky Taint source is in or close to the Biosciences and caused the students illness. If Dr Chang knew or now knows about this she could have rejected you as part of trying to cover this up?"

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"Having just reviewed her record Dr Vogel I don't believe that to be the case. I think she was more concerned about how her student came to contract Wexler's in the first place. I believe such Taint diseases are not normally contagious?"

Vogel tilts his head slightly, adam’s apple bobbing away.

”Well, yes, exactly, Wexler’s isn’t. Which is why I wanted to document an apparent transmission. If this is some new strain then we should know.”

"Is there any indications that Taint diseases are more common close to areas of high Taint?"

”Yes, of course. If you leave your little island and go to France, you will see plenty. Or if you go to the FSA, to the blight. It is called ‘Taint’ for a reason you see.”

"Perhaps your Sticky Taint source is in or close to the Biosciences and caused the students illness. If Dr Chang knew or now knows about this she could have rejected you as part of trying to cover this up?"

Vogel looks dubious. ”I suppose... it is possible.”

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Edmund leans back and lets George take the lead in the first part of the interview, taking mental notes and focusing on reading Vogel's reactions as best he can. As he senses Vogel's impatience growing he leans forward a bit in his seat, still watching him intently.

”Yes, of course. If you leave your little island and go to France, you will see plenty. Or if you go to the FSA, to the blight. It is called ‘Taint’ for a reason you see.”

Edmund raises a slightly offended eyebrow at the good doctor's attitude, clearing his throat as a subtle reminder to the swiss to mind his manners.

"I've been to France, Dr Vogel, and other places, and I've seen both taint sources and taint effects at shorter distances than I would have preferred. We're not entirely out of our depths here."

Conjuiring up a look of polite, respectful interest from his school days, Edmund smiles at the foreigner.

"Doctor, we all know you psions can sense taint and taint sources, and you personally are obviously very well versed in the theoretical field as well. Now, you say that there are different kinds of taint, distinguishable from each other. Does that also mean that you would recognize the taint source that our victims were exposed to if you were in its proximity?"

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Edmund leans back and lets George take the lead in the first part of the interview, taking mental notes and focusing on reading Vogel's reactions as best he can. As he senses Vogel's impatience growing he leans forward a bit in his seat, still watching him intently.

[You do seem to be reading Vogel correctly - as far as Edmund can tell]

Edmund raises a slightly offended eyebrow at the good doctor's attitude, clearing his throat as a subtle reminder to the swiss to mind his manners.

This isn’t lost on the young doctor, who takes it as a cue to shift the focus of his nervous ire to Edmund.

"I've been to France, Dr Vogel, and other places, and I've seen both taint sources and taint effects at shorter distances than I would have preferred. We're not entirely out of our depths here."

”Oh, good. I would hate to think I was being detained by amateurs.” Vogel appears better at irony - nervous though it might be - than tact.

The bold statement is enough to make even Reynalds lean back in his chair and grin. It’s not a friendly grin though. It’s the sort of expression you might expect from a cat toying with its food.

Conjuiring up a look of polite, respectful interest from his school days, Edmund smiles at the foreigner.

"Doctor, we all know you psions can sense taint and taint sources, and you personally are obviously very well versed in the theoretical field as well. Now, you say that there are different kinds of taint, distinguishable from each other. Does that also mean that you would recognize the taint source that our victims were exposed to if you were in its proximity?"

”Now you want me to help you?” The prisoner shakes his head in clear disbelief.

”Yes, maybe. I would recognize it, I think.”

He starts gesticulating, slowly, as if trying to pluck the answer to this question from the stale, reprocessed cell air.

“Attunement is a sense, like hearing, yes? There was an echo on the bodies. Perhaps if I hear the original voice I will recognize the sound. I cannot be sure, but I will know for sure if it is at least similar. Men sound different to women - you follow?”

He stops and meets Edmund’s gaze - and George’s.

”I will help you. But only if you let me out of here, and guarantee my return to Basel at the time I choose.”

He appears completely earnest.

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This isn’t lost on the young doctor, who takes it as a cue to shift the focus of his nervous ire to Edmund.

”Oh, good. I would hate to think I was being detained by amateurs.” Vogel appears better at irony - nervous though it might be - than tact.

The bold statement is enough to make even Reynalds lean back in his chair and grin. It’s not a friendly grin though. It’s the sort of expression you might expect from a cat toying with its food.

Edmund holds the doctor's gaze for a moment - to the extent that his gaze carries any weight at all when compared to Reynalds' shark's grin - but lets the comment slide, for now.

”Now you want me to help you?” The prisoner shakes his head in clear disbelief.

"That is what 'we require your assistance' generally means, yes." Edmund replies, letting his own slowly fragmenting patience show for a moment.

”Yes, maybe. I would recognize it, I think.”

He starts gesticulating, slowly, as if trying to pluck the answer to this question from the stale, reprocessed cell air.

“Attunement is a sense, like hearing, yes? There was an echo on the bodies. Perhaps if I hear the original voice I will recognize the sound. I cannot be sure, but I will know for sure if it is at least similar. Men sound different to women - you follow?”

Edmund gives a brief nod in reply, an attentive but impassive look on his face.

He stops and meets Edmund’s gaze - and George’s.

”I will help you. But only if you let me out of here, and guarantee my return to Basel at the time I choose.”

He appears completely earnest.

A smile breaks the ice on Edmund's features, and he straightens up again.

"Now you're cooperating. Very good. Your demands are slightly misplaced and premature, though. I told you from the start that we have no intention of detaining you longer than we have to. The more helpful you are, the sooner you can be rid of our company and on your way home or wherever you would like to go. Is that understood?"

"I assume the chance of you recognizing this 'voice' will increase if you are allowed to examine the bodies again?"

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Edmund gives a brief nod in reply, an attentive but impassive look on his face.

A smile breaks the ice on Edmund's features, and he straightens up again.

"Now you're cooperating. Very good. Your demands are slightly misplaced and premature, though. I told you from the start that we have no intention of detaining you longer than we have to. The more helpful you are, the sooner you can be rid of our company and on your way home or wherever you would like to go. Is that understood?"

"I assume the chance of you recognizing this 'voice' will increase if you are allowed to examine the bodies again?"

Vogel nods, clearly pleased to have established a basis for negotiation, and apparently wise enough to not test you any further. All he says is: ”Yes. Yes, seeing the bodies again would be most useful. Shall we go?”

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Vogel nods, clearly pleased to have established a basis for negotiation, and apparently wise enough to not test you any further. All he says is: ”Yes. Yes, seeing the bodies again would be most useful. Shall we go?”

Edmund nods and stands up, adjusting the jacket of his suit as he heads for the door. He'll sign whatever paperwork is required to take the swiss out of custody, and in a firm but polite manner asks the sergeant to take them all to inspect the bodies and see Dr Fraser.

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George will stay behind in order to follow the doctor out, keep running the audio/visual recording and also send a message over short range radio/computer link to see if Edmund wants a live feed, to watch his own back effectively, or just a copy of the recording?

"After you doctor", pausing only at the doors to recover and replace his weapons, noting the doctor's reaction to this.

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George will stay behind in order to follow the doctor out, keep running the audio/visual recording and also send a message over short range radio/computer link to see if Edmund wants a live feed, to watch his own back effectively, or just a copy of the recording?

- - Live feed. Got to do a field test at some point. - -

As Edmund subvocalizes the reply to George's question, he out of old habit glances at his wristwatch. The Spatial Awareness Radar Application/Hud springs to life in the corner of his eye, telling him all the basics he needs to know about his immediate vicinity. As they're led to Dr Fraser he lets the agent find the best way to combine his own data with George's video.

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Edmund nods and stands up, adjusting the jacket of his suit as he heads for the door. He'll sign whatever paperwork is required to take the swiss out of custody, and in a firm but polite manner asks the sergeant to take them all to inspect the bodies and see Dr Fraser.

The prison guards don’t seem particularly surprised by Edmund’s suggestion, with Marshall producing a datapad for Edmund to sign and validate with a retinal scan almost before he asks.

With the formalities taken care of, the transparent bars slide back into their sockets and young doctor Vogel gains something of a spring to his step. However, it’s not lost on either George or Edmund how much distance Reynalds maintains on the psion.

George will stay behind in order to follow the doctor out, keep running the audio/visual recording and also send a message over short range radio/computer link to see if Edmund wants a live feed, to watch his own back effectively, or just a copy of the recording?

"After you doctor", pausing only at the doors to recover and replace his weapons, noting the doctor's reaction to this.

The Swiss leaves his cell quickly and deliberately without a backward glance. He hovers near the lift while Alistair, Edmund and George rearm themselves, deliberately not paying too much attention - like some teenage boy at a fashion show with his girlfriend.

- - Live feed. Got to do a field test at some point. - -

As Edmund subvocalizes the reply to George's question, he out of old habit glances at his wristwatch. The Spatial Awareness Radar Application/Hud springs to life in the corner of his eye, telling him all the basics he needs to know about his immediate vicinity. As they're led to Dr Fraser he lets the agent find the best way to combine his own data with George's video.

As the group move through the busy station, the miniature trailing cam view shows a perfectly compliant Dr Vogel between Edmund and George, and also picks up occasional ‘louder’ pings off the firearms George, Reynalds and the various Homeguard officers are carrying.

It also picks up an odd movement from Reynalds - who is lagging behind George - enough to cause Edmund to glance back.

Edmund sees Alistair rubbing a hand over his lower face as he walks - it looks nearly natural, but Edmund gets it - the veteran agent covering his mouth to avoid potential lip readers, and is definitely involved in some sub-vocal chatter. Whatever it is, it doesn’t last very long because he’s done by the time the group returns to Sgt MacDonald’s office.

Feargan is waiting for you as well, clearly tipped off by the guards upstairs. He grunts acknowledgement to your request to see Dr Fraser, and leads you off with a clearly disapproving, ”Come along then.”

The Sergeant leads you to the trolley lift this time; and that only goes down. A few seconds and several floors underground, in front of a set of aluminium-bound swing doors, Feargan takes his leave.

There is only one way to go, and if there weren't the words ‘Forensic Pathology’ glowing a dull red above the doors would be a dead giveaway.

There is a problem with one of the neon bulbs here too - it flickers and buzzes above you, doing odd things to your shadows on the mint green walls.

Tortured screeching sounds emanate from the far side of the doors; enough to cause Vogel to draw back - eyes wide - until Reynalds swings a door open - revealing a grey-haired, beaded man blowing through a partially deconstructed saxophone, whilst clutching a stained yellow polishing rag in one hand.

One long wall of the room is covered in sampling devices and holographic displays depicting particle analyses of stomach contents and other, equally palatable, representations. The other holds a series of stainless slab locker doors - each marked with a single dull green video display for an epitaph.

Fraser looks up at you, finally, from his position between two examination tables - one complete with the cold, autopsy-scarred corpse of a young black woman; the other covered in the remaining pieces of the deconstructed musical instrument.

”About bloody time you lot brought him down!” he virtually bellows at you. ”How much of a bloody hint do I have to give in my reports to get you to sit up and take notice anyway?!”

He waves a hand in a complex gesture with what might be a tiny remote, and three of the freezer slabs hisss and slowly slide open revealing the very much-more-real-than-in-the-photograph corpses of the three horrifyingly-flayed dead.

Vogel, rather than being afraid, steps forward interestedly, but then doubles over and is noisily sick on the floor tiles.

[edited to read a bit better]

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As we walk back to the Sgt's office George runs an idea by Edmund

- Obviously we don't realy trust Vogel too much, I'm going to request an IIS psion be sent up to double check him if one is available. Unless you have any particular objections? -

Assuming Edmund doesn't object George will call Moneypenny to arrange it if possible. He will also enquire if she wants a copy of his audio/visual feed as part of the records/report for the mission, and if so whether she wants it live or the recording?

Given the importance of Taint and Taint diseases to the case, for how it seems at the moment, request a download of a suitable introductory text to Noetics.

Down in the morgue, George will step forward with the doctor to look at the bodies. Presumably having already seen the autopsy photos/holos the image they present is almost a familiar one. George will look down at the retching doctor before commenting to Edmund.

"I assume he should be familiar with the sight of cadavers from his training, so I would suggest that his reaction is more to the remenants of Taint on the bodies."

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As we walk back to the Sgt's office George runs an idea by Edmund

Obviously we don't realy trust Vogel too much, I'm going to request an IIS psion be sent up to double check him if one is available. Unless you have any particular objections? -

Assuming Edmund doesn't object George will call Moneypenny to arrange it if possible. He will also enquire if she wants a copy of his audio/visual feed as part of the records/report for the mission, and if so whether she wants it live or the recording?

George’s cyberware radio purrs with Moneypenny’s gentle response. ”Thank you for your mission operative request confirmation, Operative Kalnan. Current agency operating doctrine requests live feeds only in cases of criminal suspect evidence gathering, and only when this would definitely not pose a danger to the agent. In all other cases this is at your discretion. However, should you wish to upload... I am more than ready to receive, George.”

Given the importance of Taint and Taint diseases to the case, for how it seems at the moment, request a download of a suitable introductory text to Noetics.

”I have two previously compiled documents on the subject that you are cleared to see. I am downloading to your agent now.”

Down in the morgue, George will step forward with the doctor to look at the bodies. Presumably having already seen the autopsy photos/holos the image they present is almost a familiar one. George will look down at the retching doctor before commenting to Edmund.

"I assume he should be familiar with the sight of cadavers from his training, so I would suggest that his reaction is more to the remenants of Taint on the bodies."

Fraser looks a bit surprised, but picks up a pint glass, a third full of what looks to be cola, and crouches down next to the heaving Vogel. ”I wasn’t expecting that from you... doctor. Drink this.”

Dr Vogel coughs a few times and spits... then he gingerly takes the glass and sips it - his eyes going wide the moment the drink touches his lips. He splutters and coughs, but takes another swig. ”I wasn’t expecting the vodka”

”It takes visitors’ minds off’a things."

Vogel nods at the older man, and explains slowly. ”I opened my Kirlean eye to these corpses - but they are revolting - touched by... something awful... something opposed to life.”

Unless he is stopped he moves closer to the corpses and examines them - taking some ten minutes per corpse. As he studies the bodies, turning their flayed heads and hands with his own slender hands he talks to himself and possibly the others in the room, but he seems more interested in solving the mystery himself. ”the whole body registers, not just the cut away flesh, so the source is unlikely to be the instrument. there is very minor evidence of clotting under the removed flesh... but the carotid was most definitely severed from some sort of ligature... that means that either they were strangled a second time in the same groove... or the flesh was somehow preserved - alive even though the body was technically dead... Curious.”

All through the examination, Fraser stands in rapt attention and apparent awe for and of the much younger Swiss.

”I believe I have its scent now, as much as possible.” The Psion declares once complete. ”I will know it if we meet it, but I would urge you call for The Black Company. They are the Aesculapian soldiers trained to find and destroy this sort of threat. But of course you won’t allow them on British soil... Nevermind.”

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Edmund - who's got no objections to George's requesting a psion of their own - hangs back as the Swiss gets back on his feet and starts his examination. He tries to pay attention, but isn't quite capable of following the young doctor's more academic comments.

As he studies the bodies, turning their flayed heads and hands with his own slender hands he talks to himself and possibly the others in the room, but he seems more interested in solving the mystery himself. ”the whole body registers, not just the cut away flesh, so the source is unlikely to be the instrument."

"So this confirms that we are dealing with an actual aberrant, then?" Edmund asks.

"there is very minor evidence of clotting under the removed flesh... but the carotid was most definitely severed from some sort of ligature... that means that either they were strangled a second time in the same groove... or the flesh was somehow preserved - alive even though the body was technically dead... Curious.”

As he listens to the lecture and tries to make as much sense out of it as he can, Edmund uses the doctor's comments to try and piece together his own image of the person who did this, taking into account such things as comments on build, physical requirements, noteworthy bruises on the bodies and other physical factors, as well as observations on the killer's psyche.

He also asks Moneypenny if there are other reports on double strangulation cases - and other odd observations Vogel mentions - mostly to rule it out.

[And this is where my own investigative skills draw a blank. Does any of this ring any further bells to Edmund?]

,,
”I believe I have its scent now, as much as possible.” The Psion declares once complete. ”I will know it if we meet it, but I would urge you call for The Black Company. They are the Aesculapian soldiers trained to find and destroy this sort of threat. But of course you won’t allow them on British soil... Nevermind.”

"We will deal with the threat, Dr Vogel. You just help us find it."

"Speaking of which, since psions' sensing ranges differ. How close do you have to be to spot it, do you think? And if it is in fact an aberrant.. will it be able to sense you as well?"

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Thank you Moneypenny, in that case I will wait until there is a more pressing need or the case is completed and then upload a compressed copy of the recordings I make.

"Doctors, does that suggest that the skin of the faces and hands were removed immediately after the death of the subjects or that they were still alive at the time? From your examinations can you tell the type of scalpel that was used, for example a laser scalpel, a triangular shaped one, the curved blade profile one etc? Would the person appear to be left or right handed from the angle of the cuts, and how are the cuts carried out. Do they suggest someone with medical or surgical training or perhaps someone more used to dissection than an actual operation?"

"I'm sorry if these are not things you can answer, but I'm just trying to think of things that might cut down our rather extensive list of suspects."

"Dr Vogel, do you think this source, be it Aberrant or inanimate, would be detectable with the standard Aberscope? Indeed Dr Fraser, have you tried examining the bodies with such an instrument?"

George sets his agent the task of running down the specs of the typical issue military Aberscope attchment to Electronic Combat Sights, and also to locating the closest such items, be they in the local BHG armoury or the nearest military base. Once located have it start sorting out the e-forms to requisition at least 4 of them, and may as well prepare forms for suitable rifles to go with them to be on the safe side.

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Thank you Moneypenny, in that case I will wait until there is a more pressing need or the case is completed and then upload a compressed copy of the recordings I make.

”Acknowledged, Agent Kalnan.”

Edmund - who's got no objections to George's requesting a psion of their own - hangs back as the Swiss gets back on his feet and starts his examination. He tries to pay attention, but isn't quite capable of following the young doctor's more academic comments.

"So this confirms that we are dealing with an actual aberrant, then?" Edmund asks.

Vogel appears slightly surprised by the question. ”Unfortunately not, although it seems likely. All I can really do is confirm that the instrument wasn’t the source... which means it could have been a medically trained aberrant using a scalpel - or a blank... I mean a non-active person in the presence of very concentrated taint.”

"Doctors, does that suggest that the skin of the faces and hands were removed immediately after the death of the subjects or that they were still alive at the time? From your examinations can you tell the type of scalpel that was used, for example a laser scalpel, a triangular shaped one, the curved blade profile one etc? Would the person appear to be left or right handed from the angle of the cuts, and how are the cuts carried out. Do they suggest someone with medical or surgical training or perhaps someone more used to dissection than an actual operation?"

"I'm sorry if these are not things you can answer, but I'm just trying to think of things that might cut down our rather extensive list of suspects."

”The healing suggests it was done whilst the victims were still alive, but the wounds seem to indicate the opposite... I don’t understand this... I can only think it must be some property of the taint.”

“I can see it was definitely a curved scalpel, and almost definitely a medical professional.”

”Agreed. Standard right handed incisions, by someone who knew exactly the depth of human epidermis layers.”

The Swiss nods, ”And the skin was cut away with a lot of care, as one piece. Whoever did this was trying incredibly hard to keep the skin whole. Altogether quite a remarkable achievement - even for a surgeon. ”

As he listens to the lecture and tries to make as much sense out of it as he can, Edmund uses the doctor's comments to try and piece together his own image of the person who did this, taking into account such things as comments on build, physical requirements, noteworthy bruises on the bodies and other physical factors, as well as observations on the killer's psyche.

He also asks Moneypenny if there are other reports on double strangulation cases - and other odd observations Vogel mentions - mostly to rule it out.

[And this is where my own investigative skills draw a blank. Does any of this ring any further bells to Edmund?]

Moneypenny doesn’t have any record of similar strangulation.

Edmund mentally lists the facts so far:

-The bodies were strangled with a sharp/thin ligature suggesting a strong killer.

-No-one has mentioned any other marks on the bodies or fibers under the nails - suggesting that they were taken down quickly before they could fight back.

-The men were found naked, but the woman was found clothed. Is this relevant?

-The skin was removed from the faces and hands of the victims by a highly skilled medical professional or similar using a traditional surgical scalpel - apparently with the purpose of keeping the skin intact. Why would anyone do that?

-The bodies were placed in a recycler and apparently found by pure chance. If they hadn’t been found by the repairman, no trace would remain. Also, the recycler’s sensor was expertly deactivated. This suggests that the culprit firstly knew of the recycler’s existence - suggesting someone who has been to the university before, and knows their way around machines and likely has used the recycler before.

-The facts that don’t add up so well is this bit about the bodies not being completely dead whilst the skin was removed, or the bits about taint.

Currently Edmund’s killer profile, if he were looking for a normal human, would be:

A Strong man, probably 25 to 35 (the typical age for serial killers), with extensive medical training, who worked in or around the biosciences department sometime in the last few years. However, the aberrant factor throws a spanner into the works.

"Dr Vogel, do you think this source, be it Aberrant or inanimate, would be detectable with the standard Aberscope? Indeed Dr Fraser, have you tried examining the bodies with such an instrument?"

The bearded doctor puffs and nods. ”I have, but the bloody thing is first generation. It didn’t show aught.”

Vogel shrugs, ”Ja, the aberscopes are designed to detect living aberrants that have much stronger and not so sticky taint radiation. They should work for whatever made this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t register on these bodies. The sieve has holes too big you see.”

George sets his agent the task of running down the specs of the typical issue military Aberscope attchment to Electronic Combat Sights, and also to locating the closest such items, be they in the local BHG armoury or the nearest military base. Once located have it start sorting out the e-forms to requisition at least 4 of them, and may as well prepare forms for suitable rifles to go with them to be on the safe side.

George’s agent takes care of the drudgery and informs him that four Wembly & Hardcastle Mac 803s with fitted ECSes and integrated Aberscopes are being brought over from RAF York. They should be available at the airport within two hours. Specs are top of the range with sensing distances out to 100 meters.

"We will deal with the threat, Dr Vogel. You just help us find it."

"Speaking of which, since psions' sensing ranges differ. How close do you have to be to spot it, do you think? And if it is in fact an aberrant.. will it be able to sense you as well?"

Dr Vogel tilts his head back and forth a few times, adam’s apple bobbing as he considers. ”This sticky taint is difficult. To a strong source, forty or fifty meters, maybe. If it is a real aberrant with normal active Taint then considerably further I think. A few hundred meters.”

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George sends a message to Edmund and Reynalds informing them of the eta of the rilfes with Aberscopes, and let Reynalds know of the request for a Psion of our own to backcheck those aspects of Dr Vogel's testimony that we are unable to check ourselves.

"Doctors, is there any signs of sexual activity left on the male bodies, perhaps they were taken by surprise whilst already naked? Which might account for the female still being clothed."

"Would the taken of the faces and hands be enough to cover the exposure of the clothed bodies to some kind of heat or radiation, probably the Taint source in this case, as they would be more exposed than the rest of the body? Any cell damage to those areas under the removed tissue that might be compared with any similar damage to the rest of the body to confirmor disprove this?"

"How expert do you think they would need to be beyond normal medcal training? Are we looking at someone with 5 years surgical experience or 25 years? Or would greater than average manual dexterity make up for the difference?"

While awaiting their answers set the agent working on the list of people we had earlier and start filtering them for 5 years+ of medical/surgical practise or a similar time in a field involving lots of dissections. ALso factor in any know technical skills and having been at the Biosciences dept for at least 2 years, in order to build up familiarity with the place and it's practises.

Have the agent contact the University computer and access the order books for who on the list orders or has access to the curved blade scalpels, and crossreference with the data above. Add in any known sexual preference information as well.

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When the agent comes up with the revised list of most probably suspects George will forward the data on to the other two agents, and Moneypenny (just in case we all get wiped out by an Aberrent in the near future!)

He will then ask his agent to locate the three people listed (yes, I know one is meant to be dead, but who knows what could happen where Aberrents are concerned) using the current surveillance data from the BHG cameras, and enquire if Moneypenny has any additional surveillance assets in the University (specifically the Biosciences dept) or residences of the academic staff. If they are located he will forward that data on to the others as well.

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George sends a message to Edmund and Reynalds informing them of the eta of the rilfes with Aberscopes, and let Reynalds know of the request for a Psion of our own to backcheck those aspects of Dr Vogel's testimony that we are unable to check ourselves.

Reynalds grunts a subvocalized affirmative.

"Doctors, is there any signs of sexual activity left on the male bodies, perhaps they were taken by surprise whilst already naked? Which might account for the female still being clothed."

Both doctors shake their heads. ”No, no, I would have mentioned that in my report you know. I have been doing this for a wee while.” Fraser adds, slightly annoyed.

"Would the taken of the faces and hands be enough to cover the exposure of the clothed bodies to some kind of heat or radiation, probably the Taint source in this case, as they would be more exposed than the rest of the body? Any cell damage to those areas under the removed tissue that might be compared with any similar damage to the rest of the body to confirmor disprove this?"

Vogel frowns, struggling with the intent of your question. ”You want to know if the skin and clothing was damaged by taint, and removed for that reason? No, it seems to me that the opposite is true... there is very little tissue damage on any of the bodies other than the cause of death... and the flesh from under the removed skin has begun to heal.”

"How expert do you think they would need to be beyond normal medcal training? Are we looking at someone with 5 years surgical experience or 25 years? Or would greater than average manual dexterity make up for the difference?"

Fraser steps forward for this one, ”All surgeons have greater than average manual dexterity - it’s a requirement. But this wasn’t an intern. If I had ta guess I’d say, five years plus of this kind of experience by someone gifted.”

Vogel doesn’t look too sure, however.

George sets his agent to work whittling down the suspect list.

When the agent comes up with the revised list of most probably suspects George will forward the data on to the other two agents, and Moneypenny (just in case we all get wiped out by an Aberrent in the near future!)

He will then ask his agent to locate the three people listed (yes, I know one is meant to be dead, but who knows what could happen where Aberrents are concerned) using the current surveillance data from the BHG cameras, and enquire if Moneypenny has any additional surveillance assets in the University (specifically the Biosciences dept) or residences of the academic staff. If they are located he will forward that data on to the others as well.

Moneypenny quickly comes back with the answers: "Dr Chang’s last confirmed location is University of Edinburgh, Biosciences department. Dr Wallace’s place of interment: Kirk O’ Field Parish Church 10 Broughton St, Edinburgh, Midlothian. (the accompanying map places a marker on the map a few miles from the University - very close to Holyrood park). Miss Durham’s place of interment is St. James Church, 212 Faversham Rd, Kent (the accompanying map shows an area in the far SE of England, South of the London Arcology).”

“I am able to tap the University’s external security cameras, but internals are not currently available.”

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"I'm quite aware that you have been doing this for a long time Dr Fraser, I however, have not. Hence my checking of vague possibilityas to the reason for their nakedness."

"You seem less certain about the medical skill involved Dr Vogel, perhaps you are considering, as I was, just how inhumanely dextrous an Aberrant might be and what change that might make to your estimate?"

"Moneypenny, I'm unclear of something from your reply. Are you saying that there are internal cameras present, but that you are unable to tap into them at this time?"

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“Mr Charles Erasmus is currently at the Blackford Glen golf course, Edinburgh” [A map indicates that this is very near the university]

"I'm quite aware that you have been doing this for a long time Dr Fraser, I however, have not. Hence my checking of vague possibilityas to the reason for their nakedness."

Fraser reddens and grunts an embarrassed ”Ah right - fair enough.”

"You seem less certain about the medical skill involved Dr Vogel, perhaps you are considering, as I was, just how inhumanely dextrous an Aberrant might be and what change that might make to your estimate?"

The Swiss shrugs. ”The more aberrant work you see, the more likely you see the impossible. Yes, it is impossible for an unskilled hand to do this, but maybe one of them can do this impossible thing? You understand?”

"Moneypenny, I'm unclear of something from your reply. Are you saying that there are internal cameras present, but that you are unable to tap into them at this time?"

”I’m sorry, George. Currently, we have no cameras present within the buildings as we had no reason to believe them necessary. Would you like to arrange an installation?”

A few moments later.

”George, I took the liberty of reviewing the intent behind your previous line of questioning and applying the apparent reasoning to the other participants in this case. This query has returned some results that you may find interesting... I am showing multiple false positive identifications of Mr Joe Doherty (with certainties ranging 60 through to 82% facial match) during the month of June post time of death. All are views from high placed city cameras. All at night. All within two miles of the University and Doherty’s pub. Unfortunately image data from this area is currently being stored only for two weeks. I am expanding the search criteria to cover the city as we speak.”

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"Is Mr Erasmus a member of the golf club Moneypenny, or does he appear to be using it as a shortcut?"

"Don't go installing them on my account Moneypenny. However, you could raise the suggestion, with the suitable person, that perhaps better surveillance might be kept of all places and people involved in research into Taint and Taint based diseases."

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"Is Mr Erasmus a member of the golf club Moneypenny, or does he appear to be using it as a shortcut?"

”My records inidicate that Mr Erasmus is a member in good standing with the Blackford Glen Golf Club, and has been so for the last two years.”

"Don't go installing them on my account Moneypenny. However, you could raise the suggestion, with the suitable person, that perhaps better surveillance might be kept of all places and people involved in research into

”I’ll make an anonymous recommendation on your behalf, George.”

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"Sorry gentlemen if I appeared distracted, I was checking some leads by computer and have found something vaquely disturbing that might explain the reason for the face and skin of the hands being taken. Several records have been found in the CCTV records that indicate that the system believes at least one of the victims was in town after his apparent time of death. My suspposition therefore is that the perpetrator is using the material that have taken like a mask and perhaps gloves to either fool the CCTV system and/or whatever basic security systems are necessary to gain access to a location or locations."

"Moneypenny, relay the information to the my associates and expand the search to include the other victims, then corrolate the location information to see if there are particualr areas of the town or university that have a higher frequency of detection. If possible take into account travel routes between locations where they are spotted if more than one identification is made within a one hour time frame."

"Edmund, I've initiated a search on all the victims facial patterns, perhaps that might give an area that is most frequently visited where we could begin a ground investigation."

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"Moneypenny, relay the information to the my associates and expand the search to include the other victims, then corrolate the location information to see if there are particualr areas of the town or university that have a higher frequency of detection. If possible take into account travel routes between locations where they are spotted if more than one identification is made within a one hour time frame."

Moneypenny quickly relays the information - following up with ”Sightings of Mr Doherty surround the Blackford Glen Park and Golf Course immediately to the South of the University and the Biosciences building in particular. No sightings of the other victims have been recorded, but I will point out that the areas security footage is only maintained for two weeks. My records indicate that buildings in the Blackford Glen include the Blackford Glen Clubhouse, an electrical substation and a decommissioned World War 2 air raid shelter. Map coordinates downloading now.”

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Pass the information on to the others, "Well gentlemen it looks like we have some areas to investigate. Personally the old air raid shelter seems like a likely place to start to me. I think perhaps Dr Vogel shold join us to se if he cna give us any warning of the presence of this Taint source before we run into it.

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Pass the information on to the others, "Well gentlemen it looks like we have some areas to investigate. Personally the old air raid shelter seems like a likely place to start to me. I think perhaps Dr Vogel shold join us to se if he cna give us any warning of the presence of this Taint source before we run into it.

Vogel’s answer is at least defiant, if lacking in the confidence department. ”..I... I’m not really much of a fighter. But I will help you if I can. But you will let me go after.”

Reynalds smiles a tight-lipped smile. ”Our transport should be here in the next few minutes. And Moneypenny has completed processing your release to us, Doctor... providing you remain fully co-operative that is.”

Doctor Fraser simply nods and bids you a gruff ”Good hunting then.

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"Good the transport can swing by the airport and we can pick up the Aberscopes I requested to g looking for Aberrants with. I hope no-one minds, but they just happen to come attached to an assault rifle."

George says the last with a sardonic grin.

Equire with Moneypenny the ETA on both the Aberscopes and the psion he requested.

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