OPTICA #4

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By the time they got the girl outside, the investigation was in full swing. The skeleton crew of first responders had blossomed into an entire task force. OPTICA hounds fanned out through the entire building to search for more clues and survivors.

The carrion flies had also arrived. A SPRING agent had managed to snare poor Gainsboro to push an insurance claim, demanding entry into the crime scene with her camera. Journalists from no less than nine different outlets were on the scene, and Jonquil knew for a fact there were only six papers with offices in Ttlatic.

Not all the newcomers were unwelcome. MIRROR disaster relief teams were on the scene, and a pair of them loaded the girl Jonquil found onto an airborne drone to medivac her to Silica General hospital. The medics said that she would almost certainly live, but the damage was extensive and it might be a few days before she was lucid.

There was more good news: another girl had been found, this one in a maintenance closet. She had been knocked out by a chunk of rubble but was generally uninjured, and had been taken into OPTICA custody.

Aliza volunteered to stay at the crime scene a bit longer to help with the spectrographic analysis, so Jonquil decided to head back to OPTICA command at Spectra Plaza. She took the train as she always did: SPRING_Forth had built a robust transportation network of pneumatic locomotives, fusion vortex-powered hydrofoils, and spaceports. One of the benefits of being stationed on a young but mature protectorate planet was the decent infrastructure.

The morning rain, a light drizzle, had intensified to Variant #39: intermittent-but-heavy, pooling in the streets and mixing with waste to create a foul-smelling slurry. There were dozens of types of rain on Porropelin, and every time the LUX meteorologists thought they had them all catalogued, a new one appeared.

This didn’t bother the locals an iota, but TORCH agents did not want to have to work in soggy clothes and ruined makeup. TORCH agents were of course famous for their adaptability on exotic worlds. For instance, the girls on Theia happily lived their lives entombed in apergetic suits to withstand gravity thrice that of Earth. But the endless rains on Porropelin were different, maybe because the weather was strange but not fully alien. It was just similar enough to the Pacific Northwest or the Scottish Highlands to make girls wistful for Mama Earth.

Agents stationed on this dreary, rotten world were eventually stricken with feelings of malaise that made them more restless and melancholy than the typical occupation force. The alcohol consumption rate per capita was 25 percent higher than average, and the girls here were nearly as fond of designer drugs as they were of drinking.

On Porropelin you either got used to the weather or you went mad.

The pneumatic train slid across the city. Jonquil originally meant to read more about SPRING_ToMind, but one of the other DI’s would probably do a full presentation on them during the briefing. Instead, she gave into temptation and opened the news.

Early_SPRING ran a very convenient news aggregator that claimed impartiality but everyone knew tended towards the politics of the branch- which meant any article on the front page would be critical of BEACON, SPRING‘s main political rival.

Jonquil searched for the planet Oxford had mentioned, Kra-ki-wa. She found a detailed but opinionated accounting of the BEACON operations on that backwater. The writer couldn’t help but throw in a few personal shots at that other Diakon, who was referred to as a “would-be fascist with a height to match her intellect, hoping to hide countless policy failures beneath a mountain of TORCH (and xeno) corpses.”

It was illogical, stupid even, for Jonquil to take criticisms of BEACON‘s leader Grace Diakon as personal insults. But it bothered her all the same, and most annoyingly of all she could not say why.

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