AND NOW, FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH.
I seriously need a title for this thing. But at least in this part, we start getting into some of the pseudoscience!
The sun was starting to rise when Detective Mohan arrived on the scene. After things had quieted down, what remained of the local police force had cordoned off the site of the disturbance. The reports he had heard were unbelievable, but once he got a look with his own eyes he decided they were understating the situation. He slammed the door on his car, unhappy with what he was seeing.
“Who's in charge of this scene?” He asked, walking up to the first person he saw in a uniform. The woman raised an eyebrow, sizing him up.
“I am,” she said. Mohan glanced at her nametag. Detective Aisha Yates. “And I don't like it when people come storming onto my crime scene demanding things.” She looked him in the eyes. She had an intense gaze for such a short woman. Mohan blinked first.
“I apologize, Officer Yates.” He turned to look at the wreckage in the streets. “But I got woken up in the middle of the night to hear some crazy story about a monster killing police officers. I'd be in a better mood if it looked less like it was true.”
Yates took a deep breath. “I know that feeling, Mister...?” She did not look happy about this. Then again, no one was ever happy to see someone from the Capital Office. Officers usually hated having their investigations taken over by someone else.
“Mohan. Ken Mohan. You can just call me Mohan, though.” He took out his badge and handed it to Yates, then looked around. “Can you give me a rundown on what you know so far? The brass back in the Capital want me to give a report on all of this.”
“Of course, Detective Mohan.” She handed back his badge and motioned for him to follow her. “We've removed the bodies, but you can see where they were found.” She pointed out the forensic markers. “In total we found thirty-two bodies.”
“Cause of death?” He looked at a police car. It was just blackened scrap metal. He didn't know anything that could do that, or at least anything that he could imagine being in town.
“There were a variety of causes. Most of those found from the edge of the crime scene to the location where the responding officer reported a web-like structure...” she pointed to the area. “The reports say they died of wounds from shrapnel. A few just seemed to have exploded.” Yates pointed to the cars and the craters left in the buildings and road. “As far as we can tell, it looks like someone was using grenades or a cannon or something like that. As ridiculous as it sounds, it's the only thing that fits with what we know.”
“Alright,” Mohan said, willing to take that at face value. The craters did support that hypothesis pretty well. Hard to deny evidence literally carved into stone. “And the others?”
“Some died of strangulation, others from toxic shock.” Yates took a deep breath. “And this is going to be hard to believe, but a few of them were skeletonized. There wasn't anything left but bones in a puddle, like they had been dipped in acid or something.”
“Christ...” Mohan shook his head. “Sounds like we got ourselves one hell of a sick perp. Anything else that stands out? I'm going to spend all night just trying to convince people that I'm not crazy for reporting this.”
“Yeah,” Yates said. “There was one body that didn't fit the rest.” She led him over to the marker. “We've identified him as Archie Nicholson. The cause of death was lacerations across the chest. There were burns on the body, but they were non-fatal.”
“I see. And so you still haven't told me exactly what caused...” he made a wide gesture. “...All of this. Whatever you want to call it.”
“Well...” Officer Yates bit her lip. “Frankly, sir, the reports are hard to believe. Most of the survivors of the attack are in critical condition. From what we can tell from witnesses, there was...” she took a deep breath. “A monster.”
“Yes, sir. The reports are fairly consistent. A green, spider-like monster with a cannon on its back. I know it's hard to believe, sir, but that's what we heard and I'm putting it in the official report.”
“A monster...” Mohan repeated. He walked around the crime scene. “It's too bad we don't have a picture of it. It'd make the report easier to swallow.”
“Sorry, sir,” Yates said, rolling her eyes. Mohan waved.
“Hardly your fault. So if there was a monster, what happened to it? Did your men manage to kill it?” He sounded hopeful on that point.
“No. All of the responding officers died. We don't know exactly what happened to the monster. There are some reports of a person wearing red fighting it, and everyone in town heard some kind of loud engine and blast, but whatever happened it was fast and violent. Right at the end of the disturbance there was a bright light that lit up the whole town. We're still looking into what caused that.”
“I see,” Mohan said, nodding. “Well this is one hell of a mess. I'm going to get a room to stay here while you investigate this. I hope I won't be too much of a burden if I keep an eye on things.”
“Of course not, sir. We're understaffed and would appreciate any help you can offer in this investigation.” She didn't say anything about how she didn't want him interfering. It was left implicit in her tone.
“I'll just follow your lead, Yates.” He smiled crookedly. “You know this town better than I do.” Yates opened her mouth to say something, then a commotion made her turn her head to look. An older man in a tweed jacket was shouting something while looking at a bizarre device he was carrying.
“I knew it!” The older man said. “All of the signs are here!” He waved around a metal wand connected to a tank by a hose. The tank hung by a strap from his shoulder and seemed to slosh around as he moved, as if mostly filled with liquid.
“Who is that?” Mohan asked. Yates shook her head.
“Local color,” she said, frowning. “He shouldn't be here. One moment, Detective Mohan.” She walked over to the man, hands on her hips.
“These readings are extraordinary!” The man shook his head, turning to look. Ah! Officer Yates! You should really see these readings. They're quite-”
“Extraordinary. I heard. Professor Gable, this is a crime scene. You're going to have to leave.” She shook her head. “How did you even get here? I told my men no one was supposed to be allowed onto the scene.”
“Ah, well, I just sort of told him I was here to take some important readings. And they are important! They explain quite a bit about the phenomena that occurred last night.” He leaned in close. “You see, there's only one thing that can explain these readings.”
“I'll be happy to listen to your theories later, Professor.” Yates would not actually be happy to listen to them. “But I need you out of here now.”
“It's okay, Officer Yates,” Detective Mohan said, walking up. “I'll take his deposition.” He reached out a hand to shake. “I'm Detective Mohan, with the Capital branch.” The aged professor looked surprised, and shook hands after shifting equipment around to free one up.
“I am Professor John Gable. I work at the local University as the head of alternative energy research.” His grip was shaky, either from excitement or arthritis. “It's quite an interesting field, really. Just last year we very nearly created a perpetual motion machine. If we could just find a truly frictionless surface, it would work perfectly!”
“That's wonderful, Professor.” Mohan took out his notepad. “Now why don't you go over here and you can tell me about the readings that are so important?” He led the man away from the main crime scene. Yates nodded her thanks and got back to work.
“Ah, well, you see this is a sort of orgone energy detector.” He patted the tank of liquid. “It's based on the design of the original cloudbusters developed by Wilhelm Reich. He used them to great effect to change weather patterns just before the Collapse. He was paid by farmers to end droughts, you know. Of course, this isn't quite like his original design.”
“That's nice, Professor, but-” The academic either wasn't listening or was so deep in lecture mode that nothing could stop him now. He continued without acknowledging the Detective.
“The original designs used a series of parallel tubes, you see. Very bulky equipment, but then again he did intend them for use in large-scale atmospheric engineering, whereas this is simply designed to measure ambient orgone levels. After fifty years of refinements we've managed to introduce a few improvements to the basic design. You see, he used pure clean water to draw orgone in. That does work, but the process is somewhat slow. Now we use a type of organic chemical similar to chlorophyll. It's quite efficient, you see.”
“And the readings...?”
“Yes, yes. The readings. Well, you see, I have been calculating the ambient orgone energy in this area and it's quite high. Quite high indeed. Unnaturally so! There are very few things that can cause orgone contamination of this kind. And while there is a large amount of naturally-collected orgone, there is also a significant amount of deadly orgone radiation.”
“Of... deadly radiation?”
“Yes! It's not something that has truly been studied much, but it is quite harmful to living creatures. I wouldn't bother trying to grow a potted plant around here! Don't look so worried, Detective. It is not significantly dangerous unless you were exposed to it continually for a long time. Short exposure only rarely causes sterility.”
“Professor,” Mohan sighed. “What is orgone energy?”
“You don't know?” Professor Gable looked surprised. “Ah, I suppose that's not something they would teach at the police academy. Or anywhere besides an alternative energy department, yes.” He started pacing back and forth. “I apologize, Detective. I had forgotten I was not speaking with one of my colleagues. Though they rarely listen as well as you do. They think little of my theories and studies, you see. Quite shocking in this modern age.”
“Ah, yes,” Mohan said. He took a few notes, though he had no idea what was important and what wasn't. He could see exactly why Yates didn't want him running around her crime scene.
“Regardless, yes, orgone energy.” Gable coughed. “Orgone energy is the life force. It has many other names in other cultures. Qi, prana, bioenergy, they're all the same thing. We prefer to call it orgone because that was the name Reich used in his scientific studies on the matter. It was originally based on Reich's study of the energy of the libido. A bit racy, but quite interesting.”
“That's...” Mohan sighed. “That's wonderful professor. But since this wasn't the site of an orgy, your 'readings'-” Mohan couldn't say it seriously. He managed to avoid making air quotes. “Are probably inaccurate.”
“Ah, quite the opposite!” Gable smiled. He hadn't noticed Mohan's sarcastic tone. He probably heard it so often he just assumed it was a local accent. “In fact, I'm sure these readings are correct. There is only one explanation for this sort of strange destruction, deadly orgone radiation, and no real evidence left at all of what really happened.”
“And what is that?”
“Why it's quite obvious, really.” He leaned in conspiratorially. “It's the reptilians.”