Dead Ringers The Beginning

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Chapter 4- Kryselle

Sunday Night, North Burlow Heights. Watchman Facility.

The golden rings of Saturn encircled the starry filled night sky. Neon lights from different skyscraper buildings zipped pass me in a blur as I sped on the freeway towards the Watchman Facility.

Saturn’s Rings only showed at night, never during the day. Scientists say that in a few million years the Rings will cease to exist. Nobody knows what the problem is, but it’s been dissolving slowly into our atmosphere. I guess I can count myself lucky for being around to see them, because they’re beautiful. A lot of people from Earth and Mars move here or visit just for the view alone. Lucky for me, I was born and raised here.

After a twenty-minute drive, I pull up to Burlow Heights Watchman Facility. I’m immediately greeted with a few police vehicles parked in front of the large brown and white building. The property had a total of three buildings that each had six floors. Each building had Ringer apartments and a floor meant for offices belonging to those who work here. Some of the employees even live here in their own apartments sense someone had to be around 24/7 for the Ringers. I shake my head and double park next to one of the cop cars then get out. Leaving my jacket and purse behind, I walk to my trunk. As I approach it, it automatically slides open revealing my encased magnet cuffs and spider gun. Anytime an RO is called on for an immediate Watchman Facility visit, we’re required to have them both on us.

Before I’m able to grab them, I have to wave my wrist over the thick clear case that holds them. After doing so, I first grab and put on my magnet waist holster. I then grab my spider gun and magnet cuffs snapping them both in place before turning and marching towards the building.

“Reo, Car off.”

A red light this time shoots across the side of my car as it gently hovers down onto the ground. Usually, I’m supposed to drive through security clearance and park properly. But, considering Elizabeth threw an RO through a fucking wall, I was skipping it this time. If later I find out I got a ticket, I’ll have Meg my HRO who is the Head Ringer Observer take care of it.

I walk up to the door and hold up my wrist to the scanner and it slides open. Right as I walk in, I see Barcelo with his arms folded while pacing in front of the greeter’s desk as if he were waiting for me. Barcelo was a Ringer whose job was to counsel the new Ringers. Sense Ringers aren’t allowed to work at Marco Vital, working at Watchman was the next best thing.

Standing at I’d say 5′10, Barcelo was a Mahogany brown-skinned black man with tidy shoulder length French braids and a goatee. The ends of his hair had silver and gold styled jewelry with pointy ends with attached wire that wrapped partially up his braids. His style was always a suit without the tie, very rarely did I see him with casual clothes on. I’ve never seen him shirtless or anything, but from his build hidden under his suits, I could tell his Ringer body was incorporated with some muscles. I guess sense he likely took care of himself before he died, it was transferred over to his Ringer body makeup. If he had muscles, then it was very likely that he also had a strength cap raise. Clearly, I have thought about this on several occasions. He’s an attractive guy so sue me if I’ve visualized him shirtless on occasion. Though, considering we work so closely together the thought of going out with him could weird things up. Plus, I’ve never dated a Ringer before and I’m honestly not really looking to try. Considering how much I work around them it can turn a girl off. As advertised, Marco Vital is glorified for how human like they make Ringers, but in my line of work I sometimes see the before and after. It can kind of turn you off from wanting to date a Ringer. But hey, it doesn’t mean they still aren’t good looking. Especially Barcelo.

Anyways, before I’m called, he’s called, sometimes good reasons but most times bad reasons. In this instance it was of course a bad reason. With Elizabeth Lanthrop we both shared the same headaches. Not in a literal sense for him of course.

“Alright Barcelo, what the hell is going on now?”

I say as I approach him. Barcelo looks up in my direction then meets me halfway.

“Your best friend is at it again.”

He says with a shake of his head.

“I think she went out of town again and while she was out, she got a Hopper to raise her strength cap.”

Ugh, great. Its just as I assumed.

Hoppers were either Marco Vital employees working under the tables or previous Marco Vital employees. But mostly, and more commonly they were just self-taught citizens. They made big money doing illegal work on Ringers, giving humans tech spec additions or full on illegal SOS transfers into a Ringer. They got the street name Hoppers due to the fact it’s hard to ever track who they are or in other cases not being able to find them. Their work hops around like fast rabbits. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Hoppers had sophisticated set ups. I’ve seen the pictures and videos of a few Hoppers getting caught. One in particular had a hidden surgery room that looked just like one you would see in a Marco Vital building. They even have their own alerting system that they install on their customers. It was to let them know if or when their customer dies so they can get to them in time. If they can’t, then they contact a Hopper that’s closer before the hour window is up. Not even Marco Vital provides that, it was smart.

The Hopper in the surgery room case didn’t give up any information and just silently went to prison. They just went completely mute, street code I assume. No matter how much investigating the police and Marco Vital did to link more Hoppers to them, they came up with nothing. The mystery was deepened when all of the equipment that was put in evidence came up missing. How does a room full of SOS surgery equipment in a well secured building vanish? No camera footage no witnesses it was just cleaned out. Gottdamn Hoppers.

After walking through several security check points, I’m standing side by side with Barcelo in front of a crumbled wall. There was a large hole that was now letting in fresh air from a large garden behind the building. With my hands in the pockets of my jeans I let out a large sigh.

“How is the RO?”

“Well, he suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm, a broken collar bone and head trauma. His face is swollen and bruised too. Other than that, he’s fine.”

My eyes widen as I shake my head.

“That sounds like he’s fine to you?”

I asked sarcastically. Barcelo shrugs.

“Well, the man is alive and will fully recover. Might not be fine now, but he will be, thankfully.”

" This is ridiculous.”

I say with an annoyed chuckle as I lightly kicked a piece of metal rubble at my feet.

“What’s the poor guys name?”

“His name is Hiro Kohaku; he was here visiting with one of his assigned Ringers when he spotted Elizabeth trying to sneak out through the garden. Do you know him?”

I shake my head.

“No, he may work on our departments second floor.”

I then turn and begin making my way up to Elizabeth’s room on the sixth floor. Barcelo followed close behind while continuing to give me updates.

“We have a Tech Spector on the way to put her strength cap back at 45%.”

I stop and face him with slight shock.

“45%? Sense when was her strength cap at 45%? It’s supposed to be at 40% like all Watchman Facility residents!”

“Well, apparently, she felt threatened by a few other Ringers and put in a request to up her strength cap temporarily. It was to help give her an upper hand if she needed to defend herself. I thought it was BS, but her father made sure it happened.”

“Why am I just now hearing about this?”

I say with a shake of my head as I turn and step onto the elevator.

“5% didn’t seem like too much of a big deal to report to you at the time. Verses her strength cap right now being at 75% .”

I look at him with more shock.

“That’s higher than law enforcement officers! She must have come across a high-class Hopper. The only Hoppers who are able to get the strength caps up that high without detection are top class Tech Spectors.”

When it came to strength caps, The average Ringer had their strength caps set at 50% out of 100%. New Ringers however have theirs set at 40% until they graduate from their Watchman Facility. The only Ringers allowed with Strength caps above 50% were law enforcement and Ringers who provided evidence of their strength during their human years. I’m told it was hard to raise them even 1% without breaking several codes. The higher it’s raised the more details there are to overcome. It was built that way for that exact reason.

Imagine a table lined with fifty different bowl sizes of tiny two-tone brown color beans that practically look the same color. Every bowl size gets larger and larger and in order to get rid of each bowl you must hand pick out only one shade of brown beans. All of that while avoiding showing signs that its being tampered with. That’s what it’s like raising strength caps. So, for someone to raise Elizabeth’s to 75% which is 25% above where she should be. It meant the Hopper she hired spent a lot of time and she spent a lot of money.

We finally get off the elevator and make our way down the hall. Standing outside of the door were a few Ringer and human police officers, the BHPD. All of the police law enforcement wore black and gold uniforms. The only difference among them was the Ringer badges which had purple lining around the gold to indicate they were Ringers. Both officers dealt with Ringers and Humans together. By law, a Ringer police officer and a Human police officer must be partnered up as not to create a split. Nobody wanted a them versus us kind of situation. It also helped in plenty of situations where one could do what the other couldn’t.

The officers were chatting among themselves as we approached. I tap my wrist Reo and hold up my hand which activated my RO hologram credentials. Even though most of the officers were familiar with me, it was still something I had to do.

The officers nod at me then stand aside allowing me through the door. After I walk inside, I immediately heard the echoes of Elizabeth sobbing coming from down the hall. I walk pass her untouched and unnecessary decked out kitchen that she didn’t need, and turned the corner to find her sitting on her long fancy couch. She was hunched over with her face buried in her hands. Across the room was a large blaring electric fireplace giving off purple and red flames. Above it was a large portrait of herself posing with her white pet Tiger named Majesty who was sitting at her side.

I look back over at Elizabeth, her long blond hair hung over the sides of her face. Being full Taiwanese her hair of course wasn’t naturally that color, but it was her trademark appearance so she kept it. Sitting across from her was a female Ringer Law enforcement officer who seemed to be interviewing her. I stop in my tracks to give Elizabeth one last look over before announcing my presence. She was wearing a tight lime green short skirt and a lime green and black tube top which showed off her busty breast that were covered by a thin black jacket. Her seven-inch glowing green high heels naturally matched the rest of her outfit. And, of course, she had her signature gold space rock ankle bracelet that was in the shape of her name written in cursive. The outline stayed gold while the rest of the bracelet changed colors. Sitting on her table was her creeper hair clip that she occasionally had in her hair. Once she clips it on, the clips grow out wrapping her hair up into a bun. She likely took it off for dramatic purposes.

“Elizabeth cut the shit.”

Elizabeth looks up with her pink frowning lips and scrunched up wet face. Her manicured hands shook inches from her face as tears continued falling from her deep dark eyes. It’s always crazy to see that Ringers could express emotions with tears, I won’t get into the science about it but the book on it is interesting.

Elizabeth stands up and rushes over to me and embraces me in a hug.

“I was so scared!”

She says through her tears.

I look over at Barcelo who was equally as unmoved as I was. I finally peel her off me then grab my magnet cuffs from my holster and slap it on her wrist. Immediately, the cuff causes her to be instantly yanked backwards across her large living room. Both wrists are instantly locked behind her back. The cuffs are automatically pulled and attached to what’s called a cuff hanger. Cuff hangers were installed on the walls of all rooms in Marco Vital and the Watchman Facilities. It’s a safeguard just in case there was an incident that called for Ringers to be detained. Cuff hangers were also installed on the outside and inside of Law enforcement vehicles. I also had my own installed on the outside of my car. It was of course built in a way that made it blend in unnoticed.

“Hey!”

She screams with her arms now locked behind her back. I look over at the Ringer officer who was interviewing her and dismiss them from the room with a head nod. They nod back then get up and walk out. I walk over to Elizabeth as she struggles trying to break free.

“75% isnt strong enough for 100% proof cuffs now is it?”

I say as I fold my arms and stand in front of her.

“What are you talking about!”

She says through angry sobs.

“I get sexually assaulted and that’s all you’re worried about!?”

“Is that the lie we’re going with tonight? Please, do share how you were sexually assaulted.”

“It’s not a lie! That RO was watching me the moment he laid his sick disgusting eyes on me! When he found me taking a walk in the garden, he stopped me and acted like he wanted to have small talk. Next thing I know he has me pushed against a wall trying to feel me up!”

I throw my head back in mocking laughter.

“An RO wouldn’t touch your tit with a 20-foot poll!”

“It’s TRUE! She yells out at me.”

“So you got all dressed up in a skin tight outfit that doesn’t leave much to the imagination with heels meant for a dance club, just to take a walk in the backyard? You want me to believe an RO of...”

I pause and slightly turn my head towards Barcelo. Barcelo finishes my sentence.

“Fourteen years.”

“Fourteen years!”

I repeat him as I take a step closer to her.

“Would crap on his career just to grab your titties to get his dick hard? You know he’s married right?”

Elizabeth scoffs at me.

“Being married doesn’t mean shit! It’s never stopped a man before so why would it stop one now! Besides, I don’t judge your outfits! So what if I wanted to get dressed up to walk the garden! That means that I’m lying!?”

“Ok, that’s fine!

I say in a knowing tone.

Hey Barcelo, you mind sending over that surveillance footage to my Reo?”

I say while still looking her in her eyes.

Elizabeth looks away with an angry look on her face.

“You got it!”

Says Barcelo.

His pupils get a quick flash of purple and in a matter of seconds my Reo alerts me with a chime that I have something in my inbox. I tap my wrist which brings up a small laser screen showing the footage of the garden. The footage shows Elizabeth seemingly sneaking through the garden hiding behind walls, trees and bushes. Hiro Kohaku the RO walks into the garden looking as if he were distracted by a phone call. He does a double take after seeing movement from Elizabeth behind a tree. He taps his Reo behind his ear to hang up and lifts his hand beckoning her with his fingers to come over to him. Elizabeth is hesitant at first but finally relents and walks over. A back and forth happens for a few minutes. Elizabeth then pushes Hiro Kohaku up against the wall and begins running her hands all over him. Hiro Kohaku grabs her wrist to stop her. In reaction, Elizabeth backs away from him and begins angrily shouting at him. Hiro Kohaku walks over to her as they both share words back and forth, he pulls out magnet cuffs but Elizabeth slaps them out of his hand then lifts him by the throat and throws him through the wall.

“Oh yea, I can see exactly how he took complete advantage.”

I say sarcastically.

“You don’t know what he said to me!”

She yells angrily shedding off the sob persona.

“You know what! I’m done talking to you bitch! I want these cuffs off, and I want my dad here now!”

I shake my head with a stern look on my face.

“While in the middle of watching that, I’ve sent a report over to Marco Vital and you will be standing trial first thing in the morning. Aggressive behavior towards an RO is an automatic death trial. You’ll get your chance to say your peace so you can try wiggling out of it but with outstanding evidence like this there will be no wiggle room this time.”

“I’m here!”

Says the recognizable voice from behind me. It was her human father, Hyson Lanthrop the fifth. Like his daughter he was Taiwanese. At age 50 he stood at around 5′8 with an average build. He didn’t look his age and it was a trend that ran in his family, the blessing of looking forever young as a human. He had dark thick short hair with dark deep-set eyes just like Elizabeth. Like Barcelo, the man was always in a suit, except unlike Barcelo he always wore a tie. He was the type of man who like me had a stoned face look about him. But I bet my life that not once has anyone ever told him to smile like they do me. Hyson was the offspring of many generations of Lanthrop’s who invested in Marco Vital Force, and another pain in my ass right along with his daughter.

“What’s going on here! Why is she in magnet cuffs! Remove those now!”

He says angrily. I shake my head.

“Not happening! Her strength cap was raised to 75%! That strength also put an RO in the hospital! She stays locked up until the tech spector gets here to turn her strength off until her trial tomorrow morning.”

“Daddy! I was so scared!”

Cries out Elizabeth who was turning the fake water works back on.

“Everyone keeps trying to hurt me!”

“So, my daughter being bullied and harassed is still happening? Of course she was pushed to go get her strength caps raised! It sounds to me like this facility doesn’t know how to keep its residents under control, so she had to take matters into her own hands!”

I put my hands on my hips and stare Hyson right in his eyes.

“Your daughter is the one doing the harassing around here! Would you like to see the footage yourself!?”

“That won’t be necessary.”

He says with an unmoved facial expression. Like clockwork I’m then interrupted by an incoming call from my HRO Meg. I grit my teeth then tap my Reo.

“Hello this is Kryselle.”

Of course she was calling me to tell me that everything for Elizabeth has been cleared up as usual. After a quick aggravating discussion, I hang up with her. I tap my wrist to bring up the footage, but it wasn’t there anymore. I look back over at Barcelo.

“You still got that footage?”

I asked him already knowing the answer. Barcelo silently shakes his head. Frustrated I rub the bridge of my nose before speaking to Elizabeth.

“It seems the footage that I literally just watched a few minutes ago, no longer exist. You will be uncuffed as soon as the tech spector lowers your strength back to 40%.”

I say through gritted teeth.

“Fuck that! It was at 45%!”

Says Elizabeth interrupting me.

I take that moment to breathe in then out to control my growing anger, then I continue.

“You’ll be put under room lock for two weeks as punishment for the strength cap raise. You will receive daily video checkups from Barcelo, other than him you will have no contact with anyone. Your add on Specs will be shut down and the windows including your door will be covered and sealed as soon as everyone is cleared out of here.”

“What!”

Says Elizabeth with a shocked face.

“But that’s not fair! I’ve been dismissed so why am I getting punished at all! Daddy do something!”

I lift my hand to cut off Hyson who began to speak and continued my talking.

“You can also make the choice of when you’d like to be questioned and investigated about the Hopper’s you’ve been going too. It can be now, an hour from now, tomorrow, or after your lock down, the choice is yours. Me already knowing your ways, I know that won’t be happening now so I’m not going to waste my time by asking. As usual I’ll write up my report about today and send you over a copy for your own records.”

I then turn and begin to walk out. Hyson tightly grabs my arm as I walk pass him.

“She shouldn’t be getting questioned or punished at all!”

He says in a stern tone.

“I had that man fired for sexually assaulting my daughter. Next, I’m going to have you fired for repetitive harassment and repetitive false accusations along with unnecessary conduct. I would have gotten you fired long ago but you’re thought of very highly in your department. I warn you to back down, before I make it my mission that you’re removed.”

Barcelo steps forward in a protective way but I snatch away my arm. I lean in closer to Hyson with an angry scowl on my face.

“Do not ever put your hands on me. That will be my one and only warning. As for Elizabeth, last month your daughter stunned a resident here with a police force shock gun that a hopper installed on her! She left the resident immobile in her room for hours until she was found. Why? Your daughter didn’t like what she said. Two weeks prior to that your daughter snuck out to a party and left two injured humans, one nearly died from a stab wound and another left with a broken eye socket and a few missing teeth. Why? Your daughter didn’t like what they said! Two months before that your daughter sneaks another Ringer in here and has sex with him then dents in his skull frame with a heavy blunt object because again, she didn’t like what he said! And today your daughter threw an RO through a wall after sexually assaulting HIM! With an illegal amount of strength because she AGAIN didn’t like what he said! Any other Watchmen Facility Ringer would have been shut down and destroyed for just one of those incidences! SO, excuse me if I feel that your daughter can survive two weeks of room lock for irrefutable evidence of getting her strength cap raised. There’s no way to cover that up and its already been approved. She should honestly be doing a lifetime of room lock but you and I both know that won’t be happening for your little princess.”

I say the last sentence with a scowl.

“QUITE!”

Shouts Hyson angrily. Barcelo steps between us shielding himself in front of me. He was likely protecting him from me versus the other way around in all honesty. Barcelo knows I have the skills to badly hurt someone. The last thing I needed was to get fired and thrown in jail for breaking a rich man’s nose.

“With all due respect sir, I think it’s best if you take a step back.”

Hyson steps back and adjusts his tie as if to compose himself.

“You’re on that same hook Barcelo. You’re here to counsel yet my daughter seems to be having a tough time. You aren’t doing your job so we may need to get someone in here who will.”

Barcelo shakes his head.

“I’ve done my job thoroughly Sir. I did my research and found that she made some trouble for herself in her human years. She did small petty things and got in a few fights, but she never tried killing anyone like she is now. She should have never even gotten the opportunity for an SOS transfer. It should have been denied. Now that she’s a Ringer she’s gotten worse and you should be concerned.”

“How did you get those files?”

Says Hyson with a pale look on his face. An instant alert went off in my head as I took a mental note of that comment and his reaction.

“Screw you!”

Shouts Elizabeth to Barcelo.

“You don’t know anything about my human life! Reports mean nothing! You think you’re so much better than me but you’re a Ringer just like me! Difference is, you have no protection! You’re more disposable! You should want us on your side! You should be kissing our fucking feet you rusting worthless piece of metal! I could buy you!”

“Bethy stop talking! Everything is handled!”

Shouts Hyson in an attempt to calm her down with her childhood nickname. He then puts his attention back on me and Barcelo.

“As your superiors said! Everything has been cleared up! Those Watchman Facility incidences were either accidents or self-defense.”

I shake my head out of frustration.

“Look, I get that you don’t want to let your daughter go but she doesn’t belong here anymore! She’s unstable and dangerous!”

“Fuck you!”

Shouts Elizabeth who was now angrily trying to break herself free. I ignore her and continue talking.

“Her time was up the moment she died! You won’t be able to sweep these incidences under the rug forever because sooner or later she’ll do something that will be hard to ignore!”

Before any of them could speak to me, I storm away and begin walking down the hallway. Of course naturally Elizabeth was shouting her usual angry obscenities, but I just muted her out. As I reached the front door, I collide with someone who was walking in. Sense I was walking so fast the clash between us bumped me back hard.

“Shit.”

I say as a reaction while quickly finding my balance. I look up to excuse myself, then realize its Seth. My first reaction to him was going to be me asking what he was doing here, until I quickly remembered he’s a Tech Spector.

“Woah, I’m sorry are you alright?”

He asked with shocked concern.

“Yea, I’m fine. It’s probably my fault, sorry.”

Seth gives me a quick look over as if reading my body language.

“You seem to be in a rush to get out of here, is everything alright?”

I shake my head at the thought of the situation that I was just a part of.

“Just another day in paradise. You’ll be meeting a lovely young lady soon.”

I say to him sarcastically. Seth softly smirks.

“Oh boy, that bad huh?”

I give him a look that said “absolutely.”

Seth looks pass me as if to try and get a look at who was inside, but Elizabeth’s hallway blocked off the scene that I left. He looks back at me and lets out a light sigh before speaking.

“I got a call about a Ringer needing a strength cap adjustment. I guess sense I was the last working in my department tonight they reached out to me and asked me to come over. I can’t say that I’m too shocked that you’re here, I figured I might see you.”

I begin to walk around him. ”

Well, not for long because I’m out of here.”

Seth looked like he was about to speak but I accidentally cut him off as I face him again.

“This is about to be one of those nights where your best job in the world isn’t all sunshine and Saturn Rings by the way, just a warning.”

I teased with my own smirk.

Seth lightly chuckles with a bigger smile that sent a jolt of butterflies in my stomach. I needed to cover the likely obvious dazzle in my eyes, so I remembered to give him an important order.

“Um, put her strength cap back at 40%, no matter what she says, that’s where her strength is supposed to be. Have fun, I’ll see you around.”

I say with a half-smile. Seth nods his head.

“I’ll try my best.”

He says jokingly then turns and heads inside. I then turn and walk off myself.

Seth seems like a nice guy, but if there’s anywhere to start an Investigation regarding Hoppers, it’s likely the department him and his colleagues work in. It doesn’t hurt to give them all a good look over.

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