The next step would be a visit to the crime scene. If you weren’t called in quick enough to see the body in situ, the guidance documentation was unequivocal that homicide investigators should visit the crime scene as soon as possible. As was the case here, this would most often take place after a first physical inspection of the victim’s body at the morgue. Joe would, of course, also get a video feed of the crime scene location from around the time the maintenance worker had called in the floating corpse. But it always paid to visit the scene in person. He had followed this advice religiously for all of his career as a homicide investigator and he felt it was an integral part of the whole process of solving a case. In many ways, the investigation only began in earnest at the crime scene.

But, he thought, as he stepped through the main doors of the Precinct 40 station house, it could always wait. It also paid not to rush these things – he had learned this as well in his long and storied career. He didn’t have to rush over to the scene right away. After all, the victim had been discovered two days ago and that particular section of the station had been in police lockdown ever since. As such, he felt that he had some time to think things through properly.

As Joe stepped onto the curb in front of the station house, he looked around. The sudden change in illumination still made him reel a bit. He was clearly still suffering the effects of last night’s drinking binge. As he was thinking about this, his gaze fell on the bar he had noticed as he came in on the taxi pod.

You know exactly what you need to kill off this annoying hangover, brother. Some sweet, sweet alcohol. A refreshing ale would totally sort you out in a heartbeat right now.

A drink would be mighty nice at this point, he had to admit. It had been way too long, hadn’t it? And he had always had good success in the past with countering a hangover with more alcohol. Joe knew from ample experience that this technique could work wonders.

I suppose it couldn’t hurt, he thought. Also, there was no rush, was there? In all likelihood, he didn’t stand much of a chance to solve this thing anyway. Not if it really was an organised crime hit job or a serial murder.

Right on, brother. Let’s hit up the local cop joint. Just a quick one. Some sightseeing is always good. And maybe we’ll meet some local detectives who aren’t completely up their own arse. Who knows?

As Joe stepped into the bar next door to the station house, he had to pause in the doorway for a few moments to allow his eyes to adapt to the murky lighting inside. From what he could make out standing in the entrance way, the place looked like a seedy sailor joint in the wrong part of town. He half expected drunken longshoremen to be singing sea shanties at the bar. It was called “The Lonely Limpet”, after all. But from what he could tell from where he stood, the place was almost deserted at this time of day. No sailors or longshoremen in sight.

Not a popular lunch place then, he thought. All the cops seem to be eating someplace else. Well, that suited him just fine.

As soon as he could see where he was going in the low ambient lighting, he picked out a cubicle at the back of the room, headed straight for it and settled in. He started flicking through the drinks menu on the screen that was built into his table and, with the push of a button, ordered a local ale he’d had before. The fungus-based wheat equivalent used in this particular brand gave it a pronounced sour aftertaste that many people found rank but which Joe enjoyed very much.

While he waited for the bar staff to pour his glass of beer and bring it to his table, he went through everything he had on the case at this time. Joe had always believed that ample review of all available information in a case focused his mind on the task at hand and made it more likely for him to spot inconsistencies and to notice important details along the way. Details he would otherwise miss.

If he completely ignored any of the speculation he had indulged in with the forensics expert back at the morgue, he had the body of a dead young woman, dressed in quite expensive evening wear, who had died by being ejected out of an airlock while she was still alive. This airlock had either belonged to a nearby boat or the station itself. The body had then floated around in the currents next to the station until, a few hours later, a maintenance worker had spotted it and set the whole investigation in motion.

The waitress brought Joe’s ale to the table, but he ignored it for the moment as he arranged the available information in his head and looked at it from different angles. He pulled out the pad he had gotten from Winters and opened up a new file on it. He then started jotting down a list:

  • Joanna Delgado (25), deceased
  • Evening dress, underwear (expensive)
  • Ejected from an airlock while she was alive
  • Boat? Airlock on the station?
  • Discovery by maintenance worker, hours later

He didn’t know much about the victim at this point. After his look at the crime scene, getting as much information on her as he could get his hands on from Humboldt Control would be top priority. His first task after that would then be to come up with a list of people he could interview about her – family, co-workers, a husband or a boyfriend … He desperately needed to know more about her if he wanted to get a firm handle, any handle, on this case. He added two items to his list:

  • Request detailed data feed on victim
  • Interview candidates?

As he looked at the list again, Joe started sipping his beer. He then pulled up the forensic examiner’s photos of the body and looked at those. He tried to picture what Joanna Delgado, his mermaid, had looked like before someone had forced her out an airlock to abruptly end her life. Another one of his rituals. He tried, again and again, to conjure up an image, but the body was in such bad shape on the pictures that he simply could not make it happen.

Joe started to think about what it must have felt like to be thrown into an airlock like this. Had they beaten her, tortured her, even? Had they forced her in at gunpoint? Had she been conscious? He assumed so. Why else would they have flushed her out an airlock while she had been alive? The whole thing must have been some kind of punishment – either for her or for a loved one. Either that, or it was a crime of pure hatred. But these usually happened in the heat of the moment – with a bladed weapon or a blunt instrument, in rarer cases with a gun – throwing someone out an airlock required at least some planning. You had to have an airlock nearby, for starters.

Could have also been an individual who is extremely sick in the head, he reminded himself. Joe had seen some pretty insane things in his time.

Remember the guy who stuffed his wife into an industrial waste disposal unit? While she was pleading for her life? Yeah, there are some pretty fucked up arseholes running around out there, Joe.

What had it felt like to be thrown into an airlock like that? One that was set to the emergency cycle. Knowing that these were the last few precious seconds of your life… Knowing that what came next would be extremely painful. And very, very final.

What had it felt like to have your lungs crushed, your face smashed in and your eyeballs punched out by twenty-five bars of water pressure rushing in as the doors opened? Was it a better death than drowning in that same sea water? What had she felt in those last moments? Who had she cursed? Had she been surprised?

“Why did they kill you?”, Joe asked the empty space in his little booth.

There was no answer forthcoming, of course. He grabbed his glass but noticed that it was empty. So he pushed a button on the table’s console to order another one.

Thinking about these things just made him go down the same old spiral of doom and gloom yet again – he just couldn’t help it. At least the beer helped against the pain in his head and the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, even if it didn’t help with the hurt feeling in his heart. He just couldn’t forget. He hadn’t been able to forget all the other victims of horrible crimes he had seen and so, he knew deep inside of himself, he wouldn’t be able to forget what had happened to Joanna Delgado either.

The only thing that would make things slightly more bearable, was solving the case. If he figured out why that horrible shit had happened to her…

The waitress brought his second beer and this time, he tore right into it. Not the time for little sips now, either. Fuck all of this, he thought. I don’t care who it was, I don’t care how long it takes. But I will catch the motherfucker. I will catch him. That’s the only way he knew to even remotely make this whole fucked up situation better. Solving the case is the only thing that helps.

He emptied his glass with a last, long pull and slammed his credit card into the reader in the table console. As it clicked into place with a satisfying chunk, he punched in his authorisation code and pulled the card back out as soon as the green light came on.

As he stood and was about to walk out of his cubicle, he noticed two patrons at the bar looking straight at him. He thought they hadn’t been there when he walked in, but he couldn’t be sure. One of them had his detective badge in a holder clipped to his belt and the other one was dressed so much like a homicide investigator, he looked like he had walked right out of an entertainment feed – right down to the loud shirt with the incredibly garish colours. Other cops. Based on their looks, especially that last guy, he was almost positive they were homicide dicks, too.

Joe tried really hard to not let the surprise and annoyance he felt at seeing those guys watching him show on his face. He had no idea if he succeeded in doing this. Probably not.

Those two sitting there, each nursing a beer, could of course be a complete accident. Two colleagues frequenting the local watering hole on their lunch break, to take the edge off what might become a very long day on the job. He had expected to see cops when he walked into this place, had he not?

But Joe couldn’t shake a feeling. The feeling that those two had followed him here directly from the precinct next door. That they had been sent to keep an eye on him. But by whom? Winters? Someone else, higher up in the Precinct 40 hierarchy? Unlikely. If those two were indeed here to watch him, they had probably been sent by the lieutenant. Something to keep in mind.

Ah, fuck it, he thought. Fuck those guys. Let them know that I know. Let them tell their boss.

As he passed the bar on his way to the door, Joe looked straight at the two cops, smiled and nodded at them. The one with the badge smiled and nodded back at Joe. Maybe whoever kept an eye on him, wanted him to know that he or she did it, Joe realised. These two definitely weren’t trying to hide from anybody, that much was clear. Not with that shirt. And the badge out in the open like that, too.

As Joe stepped from the bar out onto the curb again, he pulled out the pad with the case files that Winters had given him. He looked for a directory of points of interest pertaining to the case and quickly found it. He memorised the location information for the crime scene, put the pad away and looked up and down the street for a taxi pod to flag down.

He could have had the front desk at the station house assign him a squad cruiser, of course. But Joe was stubbornly independent in matters of his own investigations. He was of the belief that the less assistance he required from the locals, the better it would be for the case in the long run. And those two cops in the bar just now had only confirmed his conviction in this regard.

And besides, he’d always preferred rolling up in something innocuous when investigating leads. There was nothing worse than a cop pod for that kind of thing. Nothing called more attention to yourself than rolling into the neighbourhood in a squad cruiser. You might as well activate the siren and lights while you were at it. Joe preferred not to be noticed on his way in and get the lay of the land, before making his presence known.

Joe saw an empty taxi, managed to get its attention and got in. Not that there were many other people around, anyway. The roadway and sidewalks were still pretty deserted. Joe once again used his badge to commandeer the vehicle in the name of the law and punched the location information he’d gotten from the case files into the onboard computer of the taxi pod.

The ride over to the crime scene was uneventful.

The taxi took Joe through desolate streets, most of which were completely deserted. Again, he noticed excess run-off water falling from the high ceiling like rain. It happened occasionally in the lower levels of stations and he knew he was pretty close to the bottom of Humboldt at the moment, but even down here there shouldn’t have been that much neglect.

This part of town is dying, brother.

The taxi pod dropped him off at the closest roadway intersecting with a part of the maintenance tunnel Joe needed to get to. From here, he would have to walk about four hundred metres down the big maintenance shaft. He pulled up a local map on his pad that had the location of the scene marked on it and walked towards the maintenance access hatch.

The tunnel was hidden behind a large metal door covered with graffiti. On top of the gang signs and rudimentary attempts at art, almost lost in all the colour, were police stickers, indicating that the hatch was off limits by order of the law. The stickers seemed inconsequential, but he knew that they were connected to surveillance gear in the walls, ceiling and walkways of this part of the station. If someone attempted to force his way through the doors into the maintenance shaft, all hell would break loose.

This part of town was even more deserted than any of the other sections Joe had travelled through to get here. There was absolutely no one around.

Joe walked right up to the maintenance hatch and inspected it with its collection of police stickers. They marked this place as a crime scene; absolutely no trespassing. He fished around in his coat pocket for his badge. When he finally found it, he waved it over the closest of the stickers. The wireless transceiver in his badge would tell the sticker that he was a police officer and well within his rights to tamper with the door. It would then communicate this knowledge wirelessly to the other stickers and the station’s Control circuitry in the immediate area. Next to the door was an access panel. Joe pulled it open. The screen and most of the buttons inside lit up immediately.

The screen was showing the notice


and Joe noticed that it had already logged his badge number with the request. Seemed like the stickers were working correctly – this wasn’t always the case when they were left behind in deserted neighbourhoods like this one. Sometimes troublemakers messed with them just to flaunt authority.

The button labelled


was lit up in bright green. Joe slammed his closed fist down on it.

Bad idea. Immediately, his head started to hurt again. Oh for fuck’s sake, he thought. I was sure we’d gotten rid of the fucking hangover with those beers earlier …

You obviously need to medicate some more, brother. That small dose wasn’t nearly enough. You need more, Joe. A lot more …

Well, that would have to wait. Time to look at his crime scene.

With a terrifying screech, which threatened to split Joe’s head asunder for good, one wing of the huge door started to move. Continuing the hellish racket, the left side of the door slowly opened while Joe watched and tried not to throw up from the renewed pain in his head. The right side of the door was also screeching loudly but seemed permanently stuck. It did not move at all.

When the infernal noise had finally subsided, Joe surveyed the scene, reeling from what he just had experienced. Dirt, rust and water was falling from the groove in the ceiling where one side of the door had just been. Even though only one half of the door had moved, the hole that had been opened in the wall was big enough to admit three people of Joe’s build walking abreast. As far as maintenance tunnels went, this was a pretty sizeable one.

Joe stepped through the hole and into the dim darkness beyond.

There was a lot of rust in this tunnel. He had spent quite a lot of time in tunnels like these during his career. They ran parallel to most large thoroughfares and even most of the smaller roadways in every station. Smaller tunnels ran under and over many of the living quarters and business areas. They were part of the invisible world in the walls – this is what a cop Joe had once known had always called it. Most people didn’t think about these spaces, many didn’t even know they existed. But if you routinely dealt with criminals, you sooner or later had to descend into the underworld. Many shady underground operations used tunnels like this one as hideouts or to move smuggled goods around.

That being said, this particular tunnel looked like it hadn’t been used for much of anything lately. Not even maintenance. The dirt he was used to. But here, there was rust and water everywhere. The sorry state of what was clearly a major maintenance conduit was actually starting to worry him. He had known Humboldt was a shithole, but he started to suspect the station was actually falling apart. Of course, he wasn’t an engineer, but it didn’t look good to him.

Joe held onto his hat and shambled along the dirty steel walkway, keeping an eye on his pad, continuously checking his position, but also trying to keep his eyes on the environment. He was trying to spot anything unusual, all the while putting himself in the shoes of a maintenance worker who frequented this desolate tunnel as part of his job routine. Whatever it was they came down here to do anyway.

When he had opened the access door, the lighting in the tunnel must have come on automatically. Panels set into the ceiling approximately every twenty-five metres were illuminating the musky darkness just enough to walk along the tunnel without bumping into the machinery that was attached to the walls, ceiling and even the floor in some areas. The overhead panels created shafts of light that slanted down at a forty-five degree angle, sharply dividing the tunnel between areas of bright light and deep darkness. This made it hard to see where you were stepping at times.

Joe continued along the tunnel, carefully avoiding any obstacles and keeping a lookout for anything that might be connected to the case. He didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary in the gloom and in time, he reached the place that, for all intends and purposes, was his crime scene. Here, the maintenance worker had discovered the body floating outside the habitat.

He looked around. On the left side of the tunnel, there was a huge screen set into the wall. When he had entered the maintenance shaft, he had noticed these screens on the wall in regular intervals — about one every hundred metres or so. They had presumably been turned on automatically with the low-level lighting when he had entered.

The screens showed a murky darkness, now and again illuminated by faint rays of light coming from somewhere above. Once in a while, columns of bubbles populated the water.

These screens did not have the same quality as those used in fancy public plazas and expensive living quarters elsewhere in the station, but the resolution was high enough to create the illusion that he was looking through a window out into the depths of the North Sea.

Joe knew that these screens where used to more easily coordinate with maintenance personnel outside the station. Since they were very cheap, they were a feature sporadically built into most maintenance corridors running along outside walls in habitat stations like this.

When he’d first seen one in a similar tunnel years ago, he’d been surprised. He hadn’t expected maintenance workers to get an outside view of the station. Usually these kinds of screens were reserved for fancy real estate. Another cop who’d been on the force a lot longer than Joe at the time had explained that these screens made finding leaks and structural problems in the outer station wall a lot easier. Maintenance workers inside the station used them to locate their colleagues who were operating maintenance skiffs or wireless repair drones outside the station. That way, they didn’t have to use reality overlays via their pads or display glasses to visualise what section of the outside wall a particular colleague was working on when they coordinated via shortwave. Joe also suspected the screens were supposed to reduce the suicide rate among maintenance workers, which was pretty hefty. It was a very lonesome and dreary job. He’d had to investigate more than one such suicide in the past. Sometimes a little bit of an outside view was enough to cheer you up. Even if all you saw were the dark ocean depths.

At the moment, this particular screen was showing nothing but the inky blackness of the surrounding ocean. But when his maintenance worker had passed this spot from the opposite direction that Joe had arrived from, he’d glanced up at the screen and had seen a body floating in the water. Joe’s mermaid.

The maintenance worker had apparently been on his way home at the end of his shift. At least that was what the report said that Joe had read before he went on his bender in the bar of his hotel. As he thought about all of this, Joe realised that he would have to talk to this maintenance engineer. And soon. He pulled the pad out of his coat pocket again, detached the stylus from its case and jotted a note to this effect down in the file he had started to keep on the home screen for loose notes just like this. It was his habit to keep a loose notes file open on a case at all times.

The wall opposite the screen, on Joe’s right, was full of pipes and conduits. He saw several closed access panels as well. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing you wouldn’t expect in one of these tunnels. Joe checked the wall anyway. He walked up and down a stretch of about twenty metres opposite the wall screen on the other side. He pulled up the station schematics for this part of the corridor on his pad. He did a quick search for surveillance cameras and other sensors. The next camera and microphone was about forty metres down the corridor in the direction he had arrived from. He cross-checked the time of the report from the maintenance worker in his files and put in a request for about two hours of surveillance feed footage from the camera at around that time.

It would take a little while to get the data, as some bureaucrat in Control would have to sign off on it first. This place wasn’t officially logged as the location were the victim was killed, after all. In that case, he would have been able to get all the data immediately. This way, there were some barriers. The arseholes in Control were sitting on all the data and they were guarding it very jealously. Data was power, after all. And so the company in control of all the sensors was giving the company that supplied the police force only what they deemed necessary. And sometimes that was pretty much akin to nothing. It was the age-old game of who knew what.

Joe started to scrutinise the floor now. Scuffed metal grating. Corroded from seawater in many places. The rubberised anti-slip coating had been worn off in a wide stretch down the middle of the corridor from decades of work boots walking along the corridor on inspection runs. Aside from the abominable condition most of the station was in, he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary here either. No tracks, no marks, no cigarette caps, no rubbish.

This crime scene wasn’t telling him anything. A complete waste of time. He looked at the ceiling in despair. Nothing there either. And then it hit him. A thought.

Why in the name of the Abyss was the body found floating outside of this shitty maintenance corridor, Joe? It makes no sense …

Indeed. It didn’t make any fucking sense. The only reason to dump a body outside, especially alive, was an execution. Public humiliation. As a punishment. A punishment to somebody else than the victim. But if the body wasn’t found or the find didn’t spark any public response – say because it was found by a maintenance worker, floating off the beaten track next to some maintenance corridor – what was the point? Nobody but the victim’s bereaved would now. If your goal was only to make the victim disappear, why dump the body outside the station at all? It was way too risky. The chance to be noticed was way too high. Why not kill your victim inside the station and dump the body in a secluded spot inside? Hell, for that matter, why not dump her right here in this tunnel? Or another one just like it? There were hundreds of kilometres of sparsely-frequented maintenance tunnels criss-crossing the whole station. And they were trivial to get into if you had even half a clue what you were doing. When Joe was a kid, he and his friends had played in tunnels just like this all the time.

It made no sense. There was a reason the body had been dumped outside. The murderer wanted this crime to be public, whoever it was. That meant, in all likelihood, the body had ended up outside this maintenance corridor by accident.

So … the big ticket question is: where was it supposed to end up?

Yes. Where indeed … Joe pulled up the area map on his pad again. He went to 3D mode and tried to figure out the immediate vicinity of his crime scene.

As he had noticed earlier that day, there were no airlocks in this part of the station at all. The station was designed very conservatively. This meant that almost all airlocks, aside from the big ones in the docking areas in the harbour district — which was actually its own separate building connected to the main station with a long connector bridge — were spread among the sections that housed the living quarters. These smaller airlocks were designed to quickly evacuate the population of the station in case of an emergency. And these locks were almost all in very crowded areas. Because of this, and because of the lack of airlocks in the direct vicinity of his crime scene, Joe now believed the origin of the body to be a boat.

Therefore, it made sense to start outside. Let’s see … No major shipping lanes, nothing of note. In fact, the waters outside were restricted to most traffic. Not surprising, right next to a habitat. So the murderer hadn’t dumped the body there because he wanted it to float into the way of another boat. That much was pretty clear.

This deserted corridor ran along the inside of the outer station wall all around the perimeter of this level, so, assuming his theory so far was correct, it was pretty unlikely that anything he was looking for was found on the same level.

Below this level, there was nothing of note either. Mostly breathing gas storage, some emergency shelters. He was pretty sure that wasn’t what he was looking for. No outside monitors in that whole level, by the looks of it.

That left the upper levels. What was above him, then? Living quarters, it looked like. That had to be it. Well, if his theory wasn’t utter halibutcrap. So… would the murderer have wanted this mermaid to float across the view screens in just some random living quarter? Or… he might have meant to have this body seen by somebody specific. Somebody Joe could track down and interview.

He now felt he was on the right track. So he kept pushing.

How would that body have floated around out there?

Joe pulled up a maritime chart service on his pad and accessed their simulation charts for currents outside his immediate position in the station. Interesting. It looked like there was a regular updrift right outside the station wall due to the tidal power plant deeper in the trench.

So, the murderer had dumped the body further down where the maintenance levels were and where it was unlikely his boat, violating restricted waters, would have been picked up by those same monitors he counted on to eventually reveal the body. Probably hoping it would float up to the habitat levels? But why hadn’t it floated up further? It would have probably been noticed quite quickly up there. He was at a loss on that one.

And then he remembered something he’d seen on the info feeds when he came in on the transport. The brownouts. Humboldt was having power problems at the moment. This was to do with the fact that one of the tidal power plants below the station had broken down. It was a major focus of the local news at the moment. In fact, wasn’t the troubled power plant the very operation that was marked on his tidal map as being right below?

A quick check confirmed Joe’s half-remembered factoid. Tidal power plant Hyosung Six-Charlie was indeed offline at the moment and had been for weeks.

Fuck me, Joe. Maybe the guy who killed her didn’t know this. Maybe he expected her body to float up to the habitat level. And it didn’t.

So, let’s assume this theory of his, which was pretty speculative at this point, was correct. That would mean somebody, probably the killer, had consulted a tidal chart and got the idea to kill his victim by dumping her out of an airlock on his boat. Kill her in a place where it would be unlikely that someone observed the murder and then have the body float up to where the view screens in the living quarters above would easily pick it up. Except it didn’t because the power plant usually creating the current was offline and the charts obviously hadn’t updated themselves yet.

This then raised the question if the killer simply wanted the murder to be revealed publicly or if he wanted a specific someone to see it. Joe leaned against the plating in an alcove on the inside station wall while he mulled this question over in his head for a couple of minutes.

After a while he came to the conclusion that the latter option was pretty unlikely. Even with the power plant generally providing the currents with a constant direction, tidal forces regularly fluctuated. So it would be almost impossible to predict what view screen a body would float past. It would have been reasonable to predict that it would float upwards and generally to the east, but nothing much beyond that, Joe concluded.

He pushed himself off the wall. He knew what to do now. While he waited for the surveillance feed report to come in, he’d have a look at the level of living quarters above. See where the murderer had wanted his victim’s body to show up. After that, he would track down the person who had actually discovered the body down here. Then, he’d find a bar and do some research on the victim.

This whole thing was predicated on the theory that the murderer had dumped the body out a boat’s airlock to make use of the currents outside the station, of course. And on the assumption that the murderer had checked a tidal simulation that wasn’t updated when power plant Six-Charlie had failed. It looked like the perp had missed the news of the brownouts and tidal power plant shutting down, or he hadn’t identified this as a possible problem with his plan. It probably hadn’t even registered for him.

The theory had some stretches to it, but it generally seemed solid and made some sense. And it was something he could work with. Joe was always happy to have a starting point like this in a case. The beginning of these things was always the hardest part, in his experience.

A gloomy feeling started to replace his newfound optimism almost immediately, however. If his theory was correct, all of this increasingly pointed to an organised crime operation or a well thought out serial murder. It looked like whoever had murdered his mermaid had done at least some amount of planning. And in his experience, most domestic murders didn’t look like the situation before him at all. Which was not a good sign. This probably reduced his odds to solve this case significantly.

Well, no matter, he had a starting point, that was worth something, at least.

Keep moving, Joe. Murder cases are like sharks: If you stop at any point, the case dies.

Joe started walking back along the dark maintenance corridor towards the main roadway. While he was concentrating on not slipping on the water accumulating on the floor and trying not to bump into any of the raised electrical conduits, hatches or other technical devices, he pushed the voice activation button on his pad and started dictating.

“Assume tidal currents from two month ago in the water outside. Under these circumstances, plot the course that the discovered body would have taken from the point where it was found for …uhhm …five hundred metres. Where does that course intersect with lines of view from observation screens on regularly inhabited areas on the station levels above this one? Mark these places on the general overview map of the station that is part of my case files.”

When he stepped out of the half-open access door into the well-lit main causeway, the increase in lighting immediately brought his headache back. “Lightsdamnit”, Joe grunted. But he quickly pushed through the pain, powered by the adrenaline coursing around his blood stream from the case gathering momentum in front of him.

When his eyes had adjusted to the change in illumination, he could see that the pad’s calculations had been completed and six places on two levels above his current location were marked on a map that had already been loaded in the foreground of his open files.

Joe checked on his map where the next elevator was located and started walking in that direction. While he walked, he kept referring back to the pad, beginning the task of eliminating some of the marked locations.