Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chapter six: …merely lying to keep in practice.

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The physical requirements for the Luna police force are stringent. It's easy to get by on one-sixth G; add in a history of a malnourished population, and you can understand why most Lunars are a pretty puny lot.

Luna Security, on the other hand, likes its cops to be big and well-muscled, on the theory that there should never be any doubt about who will win a tussle. Standard issue weapons are mace and a shock stick, but it was considered bad form and a reflection on your abilities if you had to use them. Intimidation was always our prime stock in trade, and only a full-scale riot was supposed to require air guns and dope darts.

The physical regimen that went with being a Luna policeman made it a lot easier for me to make the changeover to a higher G life than was the case for many of my compatriots. I still went for regular workouts, from physical habit and the demands of a body that craved a certain background of physical activity and protested any loss of range of motion or lessening stamina and strength.

The martial arts training was something else again. High G styles are different from low G, and I'd had to start out practically at the bottom in the Venus schools. That suited my mood at the time of my entry into this brave new world, and I'd kept at it with desultory diligence for my first year or so in the bloons. Once my old, inappropriate habits had been mothballed, I'd progressed rapidly; another year of really intensive effort would have brought me back up to dan grade. Instead, I let it drop, for what reason I could not say.

After my talk with Calvin Lee, I went for a workout at the hotel gym, and pulled and pushed against the appropriate spring-loaded machines for what seemed to be a considerable time. But the sweat that covered me didn't seem sufficiently baptismal, I suppose, so I showered and took a squid to the cluster where my old dojo resided.

The first day after sunset is usually a quiet time, as I've said before, and that was the case for my dojo, as well. I paid a visitor's fee, my membership having lapsed some months before, and went out on the mat to await the next class. Sitting seiza, legs folded beneath me, I tried to put my body's affairs in order, but I'd barely had time to let my breath settle before the sensei came out onto the mat.

His name was McElroy, and off the mat we called him "Sensei Mack." On the mat he allowed no talking of any sort, except a naming of techniques, and he did all teaching through wordless demonstration, for reasons he never chose to explain. This policy suited my temperament, so it was Sensei Mack whom I chose to study with when dojo shopping after I first arrived.

He did not acknowledge my presence as he led us through our initial exercises, but when we began to practice, he called on me for ukemi.

On Luna I had trained in two styles, a karate-derived linear style and a lock and throwing technique that once had been a kind of aikido, and now was almost completely in the form of exercises, kata, for one or two people. As a policeman, the karate was what I principally used, but I'd loved the aikido for its own sake.

It felt like there might still be something worth living for again.
Sensei Mack taught an almost classic form of aikido, a bewildering wealth of techniques and mannered throws. I'd come to appreciate its subtle lessons, even as I was finding it more and more difficult to maintain my concentration during practice. Aikido became a beautiful woman that I loved but could not bear to be around.

As uke for Sensei Mack, he had me come at him in a variety of attack maneuvers, each time with the result that I soon become airborne and have to twist to take a proper fall. I should have been feeling the effects of the earlier workout, but there was nothing, only the exhilaration of survival at the end of each throw as I'd slam into the resilient bloon floor, turning the power of my fall into sound, or rolling it back into my body and coming lightly to my feet.

It felt good. It felt very good. It felt like there might still be something worth living for again. That feeling transferred to the practice with other students, each pairing feeling like there was a human connection to be made, that ritual combat could ennoble the soul. That perhaps our lives are not doomed to waste and despair, despite appearances to the contrary.

Then it was over. When we had all bowed and Sensei Mack had left the mat, and we all began to diligently sweep the entire dojo with brooms much too small for the purpose, I checked my internal compass once again and noted that it again had an idea of north and south. It was not a reliable instrument yet, but maybe someday...

And after I had dressed, as I left the dojo, Mack was standing by the door talking to another student about some mundane matter. He looked briefly in my direction and nodded. "You will return," he said. It was not quite a question.

"Yes," I admitted. "I thank you for the lesson, Sensei."

He nodded again and returned to talking about the proper way to boil water for tea.

Ninety percent of police work is desk work, either writing reports or sifting through various databases looking for telltale patterns.

Back in my hotel, I caught an early show in the lounge, then went back to my room and read for a couple of hours. After that I went to bed, with half a night of dreamless sleep being the reward for my good behavior. The nightmares came eventually, of course, but had the good grace to fade with the clock chimed morning.

I caught a squid for City center and arrived at police headquarters just as the shifts changed. Lee was already there, having come in early to begin more computer searches.

Ninety percent of police work is desk work, either writing reports or sifting through various databases looking for telltale patterns. We were trying to find someone who knew someone who knew someone, which put our potential list at half the population of Venus. Great. When we did find someone who knew either Sheila or Doria, we wanted as many answers to most of our questions beforehand, to sift the guilty consciences and chronic liars from those who were merely lying to keep in practice. The possibility of finding someone who tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is judged unlikely by experienced policemen. Human discourse is viewed as a stew of necessary lies, with unnecessary falsehoods as seasoning.

"Doria Adams' parents were bloon fishers down south." Calvin told me. "She was fourteen when they died."

"How did they die?"

"Miasma mold," he said. At my quizzical look he explained. "It's a fungus that attacks bloons. Bloons sieve nitrogen and photosynthesize oxygen. Miasma mold temporarily cripples the oxygen making capability. The bloon still consumes O2 for respiration, though, and so does the mold. And the bloon still filters out CO2, so you don't get a CO2 excess warning. It can happen quite quickly sometimes, over maybe a day. If it's already underway and you go to sleep without noticing, you can wake up dead from breathing pure nitrogen. There's not enough physiological warnings."

"Don't people have O2 sensors?" I asked, automatically fingering my earring, which served that function by emitting a low volume warning beep when my personal air got too depleted.

"Usually," he said. "They don't always keep them fully tested and operational. You know how people are."

Not entirely I don't, I thought to myself. "So where was Doria when it happened?"

"She was in a three day a week boarding school. Education can get a little haphazard for the fishers, but most manage at least a secondary level education. Doria was in one of the data net schools until the accident, then she went to live with an aunt and uncle, according to school records."


"Whatever additional schooling she got, it was off-line. So then we have nothing until she entered Sky City briefly three years later. Six week visa, then out to shadowville is my guess. Next visit to the City a year later, and her two prostitution raps. Then license, a couple years on a hyperbolic trajectory, followed by rehab. That brings us to Marley Farm."

"Not an easy trail to back track," I observed. "Her former clients aren't going to hold up their hands and step forward. How many of her fellow rehab folks have you tracked down?"

"The clinic is just outside the City on the Circle. Their patients go through bundled in groups of five to eight, who do some sort of 'socialization therapy' along with some behavior mod to try to help them stay clean after detox. We've pulled the electronic records on the group that went in with Doria. They don't record the sessions themselves, unfortunately. Aside from Doria herself, the records list six who fed through at the same time. We have addresses for two of them, here in the City, and another one out on the Circle. Three are blanks; no fixed abode, no known address. We're going to see the doctor who was their shepherd in the psych work."

"Sounds like the place to begin," I said.

"The doctor was none too happy about having his records pulled, either," said Calvin.

"Well, big surprise," I replied.

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