Chapter 2 – Celeritas
Celeritas drove quickly down the deserted city streets. As a detective in the Crystal City Police Department, he was used to late night calls, even if he wasn’t the next detective in rotation. His old partner, Rover, had caught the homicide, and had instantly called his friend for his insights on the case. None of this was unusual, other than the fact that Rover had sounded shaken over the com-link.
Skidding around a corner at speed, Celeritas straightened out and – catching his back wheels from a potential skid-out – headed towards the Space Port on the edge of Crystal City. One of the oldest sections of the city, the airport was badly in need of the same gentrification the Shinzen district had undergone, and as such it wasn’t the most secure of locations. It was a frequent haunt for the CCPD, who were regularly called to the area, to relocate the drunks, lowlifes, and empties who would sneak in and try to steal from shipping crates. Homicides here, though not unheard of, were nonetheless rare.
Seeing the lights and cordoning tape of his colleagues, Celeritas hit a wind break, using it as a make-shift ramp to fly over the cordon line and bystanders. Changing into his robot mode, he landed mid-step, and without missing a beat he walked up to his partner, Rover.
“What do we got?!”
“Glad you got here, eventually…” said Rover, quick to continue the ongoing friendly competition over who was faster, which the two had argued about for years.
“I had to get here quick, if I left you to it, the case would never get solved. What do we know?”
“Two bodies, it’s unknown who they were, unknown who killed them. Their core-chambers were cold by the time we got here.”
“Anyone we know?”
“No-one I recognized,” replied Rover.
Celeritas nodded grimly. Over the last few weeks, several of the lower level criminal usual suspects had gone missing. Most of the time, there was no-one to miss them, but Celeritas was very good at noticing when even small things seemed out of place, and they had received several reports of missing ‘bots and strange activity over the last 0.1 vorn. In one respect he was glad the bodies were not the missing criminals, but at the same time, he couldn’t be too pleased about it.
“Who found them?”
“A mid-sized power loader who works in baggage control. We’ve held him, so we can take a statement.”
“Any witnesses?” asked Celeritas, looking around at the small crowd gathered at the cordon line.
“None. Do you want to see the bodies?”
“’Want’ might be pushing it. Do I have to, to do my job? Yeah.”
The two walked up to the corpses. Already, Celeritas was running through his internal database, trying to identify the body-type and coloration from his many hours on the streets of Crystal City. If these two were from around here, he’d likely know them.
“So, what do you know?” asked Rover, as he illuminated the faces of the victims in the gloomy baggage area, revealing a green and black robot and a teal and white robot.
“Huh?” exclaimed Celeritas. “I know this guy, or at least his face and body-type. This is Down Town…”
He moved to the other body, turning it over.
“… and this is Back Alley, these two lowlifes often run together. Small charges, peace-keeping offences… nothing heavy, just fines and cautions.”
“You knew them well?” asked Rover.
“Enough to know that they didn’t mess with big stuff. Finding them like this makes little sense. Also…”
“Well…” said Celeritas. Standing up again he pointed at the first body: “… He should be red, and he should be blue.”
“And from what you’ve said, they’re not the types who could afford redeco upgrades?”
“No,” replied Celeritas. “What did you say was the suspected cause of death?”
“Too early to tell, no obvious signs of a struggle here, and no scuff marks or paint scratches, so I don’t think they were dragged here. The spooky thing though: there’s no damage on them… at all.”
“Get these two sent for full reverse assembly autopsy. I’m going to head to the station. I want to see this worker.”
Back at the station, Celeritas sat in his office. A video feed from the interrogation cell next door showed Rover going to work on the power loader, a low-level, bulky lifting unit with a low IQ and an abrasive temperament.
“… they weren’t there when I started my shift, and when I came back from my break, the bodies just appeared.”
“Appeared?” asked Rover.
“Yeah, appeared. A weird portal, a huge swirly, colorful thing just opened up in the baggage control area, and the bodies just fell out, landed in a crumpled heap. That’s when I called you guys.”
“Did anyone else see this?”
“Please! It’s tough enough to find enough work for one power loader in my depo.”
“So you were completely on your own?”
“I was supposed to be, yeah.”
“Supposed to be?” inquired Rover.
“Well, I saw one other guy, but only after I came back from calling you.”
“Can you remember what he looked like, any distinguishing features?”
“Similar size to you, different body type, blue, with a bit of purple. I saw it briefly just before he drove off; ground type, four wheels… fast too. I’m not sure if he saw me, but he drove out of there pretty quick.”
“Did he say or do anything before he left? Did he mess with the bodies at all?”
“He looked them over, and then he said to someone something like “They’re dead, try re-calibrating…””
Rover cut him off: “Did he seem happy they were dead? Upset? Distraught in any way?”
“He seemed… disappointed. He didn’t pay too much attention to the bodies, didn’t act like he cared for them one way or the other, and then he left.”
“Any video feeds, cameras, anything?”
“I have a basic internal recording system, but it’s old. Not very often a power loader like me sees anything worth recording.”
“Can you pipe it into our monitors?”
“Only with a hardline, hang on.”
The power loader opened a panel on his chest and removed a cable, plugging it into his head and into a monitor.
“Would you consider allowing this to be shown in court?” started Rover, just as the footage began playing and distracted him.
It was only a few seconds, low frame-rate, black and white, on a loop, and Rover didn’t get a good look at the face, but he instantly recognized his partner’s transformation, and he’d spent enough time chasing after him on the speedways to know what his partner’s alt. mode rear-end looked like.
“Let me call my partner, Celeritas, in,” said Rover, on a hunch.
Celeritas couldn’t see the footage, but he heard the mention of his name, and walked into the interrogation room. As he did, the power loader flinched.
“It’s him!” cried the power loader.
“You said the guy you saw was blue and purple?” said Rover.
“Yeah, he was. But he looked exactly like you!” He pointed at Celeritas.
“Let me see the footage,” said Celeritas.
Looking at the footage on the monitor, Celeritas could not deny the resemblance. Having a doppelgänger share a body type was one thing, but a conversion between modes was almost as unique as a human fingerprint.
“So that’s what I look like when I change modes, huh?” he asked.
“Exactly like that,” replied Rover. He turned off the surveillance in the interrogation room and turned to his friend: “Listen, you need to get out of here. If this footage leaks, if the Captain sees it, we’ll have to hold you for questioning.”
“Stall them, just give me a few dozen breems,” said Celeritas. “I have a hunch, something Blindfire mentioned to me a few weeks back. I need to follow it up.”
“You need me?” asked Rover.
“You’re more useful to me here, buying me time.”
Celeritas had fled the police station and, after a quick-stop off at the police science laboratory, was making his way back to the spaceport.
A few weeks previous, Celeritas’ good friend and comrade, Blindfire, had mentioned an attack from a differently colored identical twin. Sonic Drill and Metalstorm had tried to laugh it off as a drunken hallucination, but Celeritas had loved the mystery of the situation, and had pushed for more details. Blindfire mentioned a portal, and now the power loader from the airport had as well. Celeritas was not a big believer in coincidence and was hoping to confirm his suspicions using a scanner to search for evidence of wormholes and dimensional tears.
After the crime-scene had been preserved and the bodies removed, the area had quieted down and was now deserted. Celeritas converted to robot mode and removed the scanner he had taken from the police labs. Starting the scanner, he ran it over the floor, exploring the outlines from where the corpses had been. As he suspected, the scanner detected Higgs-Thorne particle radiation, much higher than background levels, that seemed to suggest that the victims may have come from another time, place, or universe.
He heard a scraping noise, and looked around to see if he could pin-point where it was coming from. Still holding the scanner, he started backing out of the spaceport baggage area slowly, scanning as he went, looking for the evidence of a wormhole. As he backed up, he bumped into the back of a blue form dragging along a very familiar looking deactivated robot. The two robots turned to see what they’d hit.
Celeritas was face to face with his mirror image counterpart; Stain.
“I’m guessing you’re me, and you’re thinking that I’m you,” Celeritas spoke calmly, “but who is that you’re dragging?”
“This empty? Does it matter?”
“It probably does to him, yeah.”
Stain saw the scanner in Celeritas hand and motioned to it.
“Yeah,” Celeritas nodded, and gestured towards the deactivated robot, one leg of which was still in Stain’s hand. “I’m guessing that’s our universe’s version of Back Alley, and we found your universe’ version of him dead, right here, earlier.”
“That’s right,” replied Stain. “You’ve got it all figured out, huh?”
“What do you need him for?”
“The wormhole we’re travelling through, it’s unstable. We don’t want to bring the rest of the team through unless we know it’s safe…” said Stain.
“So if you throw a few ‘bots that no-one will miss through the portal before you use it, and then communicate back and forth, you know when it’s stable.”
“Damn, you’re good. Figure that all out on your own?” mocked Stain.
“So, what now?” said Celeritas.
“Take a guess, genius,” said Stain.
“I guess we fight, like Blindfire and his impostor a few weeks back,” said Celeritas. He dropped the scanner and armed himself with his fusion-powered rifles.
“Well, we could do that,” said Stain, “ but that didn’t work out too well for Ripper, so…”
Suddenly a shot ran out, and it hit with such force that it sheered Celeritas right arm off. He let out a scream, and dropped to his knees. In shock, he picked up his right arm, and Stain kicked both of his weapons away.
Orthrus and Ripper appeared, Orthrus’ rifle literally still smoking.
“That’s how you get it done,” said Orthrus, poking Ripper with his rifle butt.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ripper tried to dismiss his earlier failure.
“Wh… why?” asked Celeritas.
“We’ll ask the questions from here on out,” said Orthrus. “Stain, is the portal stable?”
The portal opened, and Stain picked up the deactivated Back Alley and threw him through.
“Only one way to find out,” he said.
To be Continued…………