I knew Lisa was dead and that I was dreaming about her. It had been a recurring dream for the past several months. Usually when I awoke it was due to the tears that flowed down my face. This time it was the phone ringing.
When I grabbed the phone from the bedside table all I could hear was hysterical shouting. I tried to get their attention, but whoever was on the phone was so far gone I could make no impact on them. All I could disentangle from the shrieking was that something terrible had happened in Laboratory D5 at the Hansen Institute. I heard the word “Dead” screamed several times before I slammed the receiver down.
I was head of security at the Hansen Institute and the safety of the staff, students and patients at the facility and the attached hospital was my ultimate responsibility. The house I had shared with Lisa was on the other side of the campus from the main buildings that nestled against the mountain just outside Harperville.
I quickly dressed and put on my shoulder holster and gun and decided to use my car to travel the short distance across the campus, with lights and sirens. The hysteria of whoever had made the call had scared me, to be frank. Everyone at the Hansen Institute was a professional in whatever they did, so to rattle one of them that much, something bad must have happened. Something very bad, indeed.
I opened the door with my electronic key and used a tramcart to get to D5. When I arrived, Professor Mikki was waiting for me. He was Head of Research at the centre and was also in charge of the pathology department.
He was leaning against the wall by the door. He looked 100 years past his age. He looked at me and said: “Thank God you are here, Steve.”
“What the hell has happened? An accident? How many are dead?”
He shook his head. “No... not an... accident, Steve. The entire team who were working in D5 are all dead, however. They were Murdered. Every single one of them.”
He looked haunted. “They were cut to pieces, Steve.”
“Everyone? A knife attack?” This couldn’t be right. It sounded impossible.
“No, Steve. Without seeing for yourself, you could not believe. They were not knifed. Hell. Maybe they were. It’s not possible to tell. You see, when I say they were cut to pieces, I mean that they were all quite literally cut into tiny pieces, Small. Like little, tiny pieces. In effect, they have been turned into piles of Human Sushi.”
It was not until I walked through the doors of the outer entrance to D5 with Professor Mikki and saw for myself that I realised Professor Mikki had not been exaggerating. There would have been ten to fifteen people working in the laboratory on the might shift at the time of the attack.
Now they had been turned into nothing put neat piles of Human Sushi, as he had said. In handy, bite-sized morsels.
I felt sick. I turned to the sluice sink on the left-hand side of the room. Professor Mikki screamed: “No!” I saw, just in time that there was a head in the sink. My heart lurched when I recognised the face of my sometime lover, Mary Davenport. She had helped me get over the death of my wife, Lisa. Now I had only been seconds away from vomiting over her mortal remains. Or rather, some of them…
I glanced up at Professor Mikki. There were tears in his eyes. “I know, I know,” he said. “Poor Mary. Poor all of them. The other heads are over there, behind the lockers. I am supposed to be a pathologist. How in the hell am I supposed to be able to try to sort this mess out? They are my friends and colleagues. I know Mary meant a lot to you. Trying to separate and identify their remains would be bad enough, but I have never heard of anything like this! What do I do? What can I do?” He was close to breaking down.
“Nothing.” I said, quietly. “This is not a job for a friend of the people who worked here. We need outsiders who can do the job with professional detachment. No offence to you, Professor Mikki, but I think we need outside help.”
He nodded. “No offence taken, Steve. You were thinking of the police?”
“Not the police. As the Hansen Institute is a Site of Federal Interest under the 2020 SFI act, it’s got to be a job for the FBI. I’ll call them now.”
The two duty officers from the Harper FBI office had been in the FBI for years. They had that careworn expression of people who had seen too much, done too much and been in too many places. The Harper FBI office should have been a nice, sleepy sinecure for them. A place to investigate next-to-nothing and make plans for a well-deserved retirement. Now I had got them out in the middle of the night.
The older of the two, who looked like a veteran of more than one branch of government service, whistled when he saw the contents of D5. “Holy shit! How in the hell are the path boys gonna deal with this?”
“Beats the crap outta me,” his younger companion replied. “Guess they’ll need to do some DNA profiling on all the people who were in the room and then use a Gamma Positive DNA resonance scanner on each piece. It’ll take ages, but it’ll be the only way.”
They used their Personal Satellite Communicators to call their regional office and arrange for the work to be done.
In the meantime, I went over the evidence of what had happened with Professor Mikki.
“Steve, how did this happen?”
“Yes, Professor Mikki, I know what you are getting at. No way out other than through Spinal Corridor 4, we are up against the mountain wall here, so no way of getting through that way. The cameras in the SC4 show nothing.”
“You checked the cameras in D5, of course?”
“I looked at the video records, but the security cameras ceased working at midnight.”
“No, I don’t think so. It looks just as if someone had told them to go into “sleep” mode. They just were not recording.”
“So, we have a mysterious killer who can somehow get past 1,000 staff, murder 15 people and not be seen. Knows the codes to control the security cameras and can chop 15 people up into tiny pieces without anyone noticing that there was anything amiss? This is freaky!”
“You are right, Professor Mikki. It is freaky. Who found the bodies?”
“That was Will Kant. He missed his chess buddy Femmi Matiba at their 3 am break time. He called down, got no reply so he and one of the guys from security went down. They are both under very heavy sedation.”
“FBI will want to interview them, eventually, of course.”
“Yes, of course.”
We parted company with a hug and did not meet up until later that morning. I was feeling like a fish out of water. The FBI had got into full swing and were responsible for investigating the murders of 15 people. I was, I realised, totally superfluous. After all, I was head of security and 15 people had died. Some head of security...
I was sat in my office pretending to work when Professor Mikki tracked me down. By that time he was looking a little better. He accepted my offer of a seat by, as usual, ignoring the seat and sitting on my desk.
“Steve, I have been thinking. That attack was not possible for one person. But technically it was impossible for any person. That could only have been the work of a Mobile Robotic Surgeon.”
“But there are no Mobile Robotic Surgeons!” I replied. “I recall Gort built a prototype, it worked fairly well, but it never really worked quite as well as expected. Something to do with not being able to get the right type of Central Processor Unit. Certainly not one with enough “umph” for the job.”
“Well, with Gort taking a two-year sabbatical to visit relatives in Europe, we can’t ask for his expert help, can we?”
“No, that’s true. Funny, I never thought of Gort as having relatives. He ever mentioned any to you?”
Professor Mikki shook his head. “Not to me. Did you know that Gort had some warped idea about using a human brain as the CPU? My Buddhist principles balked at that idea, let me tell you!
"He was on the point of asking for volunteers to donate their brains, but the Standards and Ethics Committee of the Institute knocked it back. Of course, not long afterwards Gort announced his decision to go and visit his relatives on sabatical. The board of governors could not refuse his request as he didn’t appear to have had a holiday, ever.”
I had never liked Gort, but he had been with Inar Hansen for over 30 years, so he was as much a part of the founding team of the Hansen Institute as Inar or Inar’s daughter, my beloved wife, Lisa and Professor Mikki.
I decided to broach the subject of my dreams about Lisa with Professor Mikki. “Would you think it strange if I told you that I had been dreaming about Lisa?”
He looked round at me, sharply. “You too? I have been dreaming about Lisa, also. What are your dreams?”
Before I could answer he said: “No! Don’t tell me, Steve. Write them down. That’ll be a more scientific approach to this.”
I wrote down my recurring dream and handed it to him. He read it aloud: “I am always with Lisa on a beach, somewhere. She is sad, she points to her head, all she does is point to her head. I feel so sad I awake myself by crying.”
He looked worried. It was several seconds before he began to speak. “I, too, have been dreaming about Lisa. I have seen her in a number of locations. Maybe in the park, at a concert or somewhere similar. It’s been happening for about two months. With my dreams, too, she has problems with her head. Always with her head. But I always feel so sad, as there’s nothing I can do.”
I shivered, even though it was not cold. “My dreams are being haunted by her, Professor Mikki. What can I do?”
He said: “I don’t believe in coincidence, Steve. We both start having very similar dreams about Lisa and then 15 people get killed. Some people, some colleagues, would mock me, but I am sure there must be some kind of link.”
“Could it be ESP, from Lisa?”
“I doubt it, Steve. Technically, Lisa has ceased to exist. She is deader than most, Steve. You recall that when it was discovered that she had Rickenbacker Syndrome she was keen to be allowed to be the first to use the experimental Stasis Unit so that time could be stopped for her, until a cure could be found?”
I shuddered at the thought of what had happened only two years previously, when Lisa had so suddenly and catastrophically fallen ill with Rickenbacker Syndrome. It started out with severe tiredness, which then became muscular weakness and eventual degeneration.
Dr Timmins, who was virtually the family physician, had diagnosed the condition –there are less than five cases each year- and revealed that the prognosis was not good. The disease was invariably fatal, taking anything from six months to two years to cause an agonising death.
It had been Gort’s idea that Lisa could use the experimental stasis unit which had been a brainchild of him and Inar. After 20 years they had managed to create just one unit which used 3 Giga watts of power to run.
And that unit had been the home to Lisa for almost two years. Time was not passing for Lisa. Did not pass for Lisa. Time could not pass for Lisa. She was hidden away, safe from the ravages of time.
I was glad, because I had seen some of the photographs of other victims of Rickenbacker Syndrome and they had looked awful. Pitiful, physical wrecks.
But as I knew there would almost certainly be no cure for Rickenbacker Syndrome within the next 50 years, that Lisa was “Dead” to me. I’d had to come to terms with that many months previously.
Mary Davenport with her wicked sense of fun had helped. And I had a sneaking suspicion that Lisa had put her up to it before she had died. Or rather, before she had gone into stasis…
I walked back down to D5. The blood had been cleared up, it had not been decided whether the lab would be used at any time in the future, if at all.
How the hell could the murders have been committed? And who had undertaken them? Why? What did they hope to achieve? Had they achieved it?
The FBI crime scene tapes had been removed and the remains of the victims was undergoing DNA testing at their main facility in New Washington.
I walked into the laboratory. The next thing I remembered was waking up on the floor. My head was confused, dizzy. A voice. A voice I knew. “Welcome, Steve. How nice that you could join us.”
It was a cruel, hollow voice. Gort?! What in the hell was he doing here?
I stood up, a little unsteady. I did not recognise where I was. It was a laboratory. It looked similar to D5, but larger. I had never seen this facility before.
“You seem confused, Steve. Allow me to welcome you to D5, Main.”
D5 Main? How in the hell didn’t I know about D5 Main? Then it hit me. Gort had been with Inar Hansen since the days when the facility had been a military research hospital, with extensive tunnels and underground facilities. This was before they had raised the money to start up the Hansen Institute. The early days had been a little thin, but Gort had stuck with him.
If anyone knew about the part of the facility that had been the former military base, then it would have to be Gort.
“I expect you are wondering why, aren’t you Steve? And also where, too? Where is simple. D5 Main was the main facility, D5 in the hospital was just a relatively small ante-room. It was a simple job for me to change the electronic plans of the hospital. Though I expect you are wondering why, mainly?”
Play for time. Analyse the situation, establish an appropriate course of action.
“Yes, Gort. What made you murder your colleagues?”
“Merely a means to an end, Steve. This is the pinnacle of my hatred for you and Lisa. Did you know I hated you, Steve? I wanted Lisa. For myself. But she chose to marry you, a security guard! I had been plotting this for years. I have some interesting news for you. Lisa never had Rickenbacker Syndrome. I was able to fake the symptoms, with drugs that I had given to her.”
“But Lisa’s Doctor, Doctor Timmins, gave us the diagnosis. He told us…” I then realised that there must have been a conspiracy between Gort and Timmins.
“Why did Timmins help you, Gort?”
“Because Timmins always did what I told him to."
“You are quick to notice that, Steve. Yes. Everyone thought that Timmins retired to his family home in New Mexico. He didn’t, poor soul.”
I looked at him and I noticed that he was wearing a small metallic cap on his head.
“I have been living and working down here for almost two years. The fools on the committee thought that they could stop me from developing my Mobile Robotic Surgery Unit. Idiots! Fools! I needed a human brain for the prototype. You might be interested to know that Timmins’ brain was the first to be employed in such a way. Didn’t last all that long, however. A problem with the support mechanism. Though, of course, Timmins should have felt honoured that I had selected him for such a fine sacrifice! Poor Timmins was not happy when he found himself inside the Mobile Robotic Surgery Unit. Not very happy at all. There was, though, nothing he could do about it. As I was in total power and, after all, I had incinerated his body.
“However, the second unit I constructed has worked well. Remarkably well, as you will have seen for yourself. Did you like the way that I had all those fools cut up into Sushi? Especially for that Japanese scum, Professor Mikki?”
Racism was so old fashioned that whenever I cam across it I found it difficult to comprehend. It was especially pointless, really, as Professor Mikki’s family had not even come from Japan. But I decided to let that pass for the moment.
Gort continued: “I think you might wish to meet the second unit. But I think you have already met, in a way.”
A chill went through me.
Gort said: “Lisa, come here.”
A Mobile Robotic Surgeon, it’s metallic shell splattered with dried blood, came into view, from behind a screen. It seemed as if it was trying to hide from me. My poor, poor Lisa!
“What do you think of your lovely wife, now, Steve?”
I ignored him. “Lisa. I want you to know that I’ll always love you, no matter what physical form you take. We’ll be able to work this out, after I have dealt with Gort.”
Gort looked at me. “You do not understand, do you? Just look at the scalpels, cutting tools and bone saws on that metal and plastic thing. Lisa killed everyone in D5, she then, under my direction, cut them all up. I had her place the head of your lover in the sink. A very appropriate act, don’t you think?”
This could be tricky. How to play this one?
“Gort, you are a damn fool. Lisa set the whole thing up with Mary before she died. She wanted someone to look after me, to help me. You may be a fine surgical engineer, but your lack of understanding of human psychology will be your downfall.”
“Shut up!” Anger from Gort? Good. Now I have a way in. A way to deal with him.
“Lisa, kill Steve. Kill Steve, now!”
I looked round. The only thing I could see that might serve as a weapon was an old-fashioned solid scalpel lying on a worktop. I picked it up.
“That’ll work Steve! Why not lunge at me with the scalpel? Lisa will have you sliced to pieces within seconds.”
“Is that right, Gort? Strange that Lisa is not moving, isn’t it?”
The wheels were trembling, but the unit was shuddering, as if there was a battle for control.
“This is not possible!” He was getting angry again. Good.
“Why is not possible, Gort? After so much practice, it is likely that Lisa is able to resist the influences from your control device. For all your intelligence Gort, you really are a very, very stupid, very little man, aren’t you?”
“I am not stupid! I can make Lisa feel white-hot pain. Pain such as she has never felt before!”
Lisa ran into a wall, momentarily stunned by the pain that he had inflicted on her. I knew I’d have to act fast.
My two-year secondment from the US Navy SEALS To the Royal Marine Special Boat Service in Plympton, Devon, would really pay off. But not, perhaps, in a way that I would have ever considered possible.
At first I thought about throwing the scalpel so that the blade hit Gort in one of his eyes. Then I knew what I’d have to do. I held the scalpel like a dart, and I aimed it so that the solid metal shaft of the scalpel buried itself deep into Gort’s right eye.
He gave an agonised shriek of pain and fell against the wall. “I’ll kill you for that!” He growled, through gritted teeth.
Next, he made the mistake that I had trusted he would make. He grabbed for what was sticking in his eye and by reflex, took a firm hold of it, as blood and ichor ran down his face from his ruined eye.
I had hoped that he would cut himself. But I was not prepared for what happened next. The middle three fingers on his right hand fell to the floor as a fountain of blood spurted from the raw stumps, as he inadvertently sliced off his own fingers.
He squealed and fell to the floor, in shock. I could tell that Lisa was now totally free of his control.
Within a second I was standing over Gort, looking down on him.
“You are a fool, Steve.” He gasped out. “I am always going to best you. You can’t defeat me. Because I am a genius.”
He was still telling me how very clever he was when I broke his neck, without saying another word to him.
Six months on and Lisa is still in a mobile paraunit, although the prognosis for a complete recovery once the toxins that Gort had used to replicate Rickbacker Syndrome were removed from her body, is very good. For some reason, Gort had left her body in the Statis unit. God alone knew what that freak Gort would have done with it. The thought made me sick.
Correcting the nerve damage caused by Gort's operation to remove Lisa's brain from her body was somewhat more problematical, but also well on the way to as near a full recovery as possible. Any lack there would, in time, be compensated for by implants and physiotherapy.
The psychological damage of what Gort had done to her would take longer to repair, but it was already starting to kick in, I knew.
I had offered to resign from my position, but the Foundation wouldn’t hear of it. As Professor Mikki said: “You thought you had all the information that you required for the job as head of security. Quite clearly, you did not. Nobody knew about the existence of D5, Main, or the rest of the complex that Gort had kept secret for God knows what reason. I really do wish I’d seen you kill the bastard, though.” Professor Mikki, man of surprises.