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Midnight Crew



Copyright © All Rights Reserved - Wolf Sherman

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronically, electrostatic magnetic tape or mechanically; including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author. Although this is a fictional work, some locations, organisations and events are factual. The characters and times in the story line are fictional - therefore, all resemblances to actual people present or past are purely coincidental.

Synopsis



"To Protect & To Serve" had for necessity's sake been replaced by "Oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente" - "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". The principle is ancient and referred to the Latin term "lex talionis" or the "Law of Talion". Retaliation authorized by law, in which the punishment corresponds in kind and degree to the injury.



Day was dependent on night, and the blacker, the better.

Prologue



It was a world much like ours, parallel, but not in a hazy Sci-Fi kind of way... I've come to know how the eeriness of sundown in the forgotten part of the east-end of town, smeared itself thick and sticky with indifference to our career.



*** *** *** ***



Our Brave New World.



Did I say 'our'? Yes, me... now - and the missing me, tied up somewhere in that computer — linked to that body over there. Thank heavens they keep her alive, or him... I can't see its face. My memories are floating aimlessly around in someone's brain. The deserted-ness of the drenched and poorly-lit industrial streets are somehow always preferred to other nights. Dilapidated double-story factories had reflected their rain-speckled broken windows, in the patternless overflowing potholes on the once beehive double carriage way, past what had become a solitary solution to out-of-hand crime in South Africa. In some limited ways, it is still a world, I suppose. What could pass maybe for a world, if we grip hard enough onto the hope of escaping what the Justice-System had come to, that is. I swapped tranquil reality, for rules by which to survive a little longer, till it was time. What had been a softer world of laughs, hugs, and pastels, predictable but aimless walks - hand-in-hand with Jill through art galleries, the sounds and feels of her spontaneous giggles and comforting any-minute-of-the-day hugging, the intoxicating drinking-in of the finest fragrance, when her skin whisked that sweet floral perfume into something otherworldly - that couldn't be bought - 'then' framed the world - and everything else was secondary. And then one evening, that rude double knock echoed into our home, bounced, as it ridiculed the impermanence of life, over our yellow wooden panels of flooring, and wacked me in the back of my head - where I had just lit two thin red candles to brighten-up our two-year anniversary celebration. Heated and waiting porcelain dinner plates, that had barely been visible through the steam that covered the chilly penthouse suite from the dimmer kitchen... That's as far as I recall.



Waking up in theatre, telling me not to move? I'm still not sure who was more shocked. Me, or the two bloodied and seemingly perplexed nurses, unsure whether to follow the surgeon's lead and carelessly shoot their powder-blue gloves into the corner onto the overflowing medical-waist dustbin, or wait a few moments longer... To my left, were a man with a stab wound to the neck, and a woman whose head and face advertised unexpected travel through what I had guessed must have been the unforgiving windscreen of a car - both of them on respirators. Crows-nests of electrical wires and data cables had been dangling down towards bundles of sticky crimson swabs and bandages on the cement floor. Like a military too-quickly assembled temporary field-hospital station, where they had to make do with whatever was locked away before. To my right, Eddie. He was less fortunate. Seems the new tech wasn't perfected yet, and bringing someone back to life, twenty minutes after, wasn't for everyone. A sudden power outage ensured his sleepy consciousness had been lost for keeps. I do miss Eddie on evenings like these, I really do. We all need someone to remind us of our failures in life. Eddie had been that person for me.



"Brian, open your eyes, if it helps at all - I have no idea what the pain must be like, to be frank - wish your new reality away for a brief while - into one of the broken looking factories down the road, or up the road".



"He doesn't know where he is Doc..."



"Of course he does. I know this one, he's a fighter. Not my usual medical speak I know Brian... It's Brian, is it? He's too hard-arsed to die. Saved my life a few months ago. He's been here before".



"How so Doc?"



"Swapped his memories for what could not ever be described as life. Rather, these were 'rules' to precariously pass just marginally around the razor-toothed pitfalls that sarcastic 'Time' had mercilessly designed, apparently tailored just for him".



I was in between life and death and sleep, but that right there, was when I woke up.



"Keep to yourself, don't make friends, never leave the industrial area alone or on foot, or unarmed, and when pushed to do so, never during sunny hours..."



Yes... OK Frank.



"What?"



You said - "To be Frank?"



"Clearly your sense of humour is back".



Must be my, how did you say, 'hard-arsed-ness.



"We have to reminded them, you see? You know it's one-out-of-ten that is actually successful right? And this is his second time. He's still alive because he's good at following the rules. His life had become a tepid existence where dictionaries were peeled from communication as if the world had gone stone-deaf, and life, was undressed from daylight's gown... A plane where the Court passages are dustier, less visited, and almost unused... with narrower manoeuvring spaces for criminals and where illegal practices paid less... ruled by limited phrases and a handful of gestures and signals, unrecorded for a few hours... in the dark".



"Download complete Doc".



*** *** *** ***



November 2022. Turning his right wrist, he noticed it was almost time to go visit the outside world again, just briefly. Nothing much would be discussed and no one would need to write about it. An unrecorded-record, if you want - if ever there existed such a thing. And because of this, society wouldn't be troubled by it. Much like the old science-related question, of the tree falling in a forest dressed in loneliness - would it still make a sound? And to answer that... in Brian's world, a resounding 'Yes'! But no one wanted to hear it...



*** *** *** ***



It was almost midnight and the curfew lifted.



There are two kinds of people in the world. People who merely glimpse at the clock and see what time it is, then plan and love and live accordingly. And that to them is the unquestionable reality of life and those are the laws and borders that keep them both occupied and satisfied. Then there are a mere handful of us... who wonder how the clock works, even question it... We'd not prefer to take it apart, but are expected to - until one day, when we become the best at taking things apart, even time...



It's almost 12 o'clock, and two quieter city blocks outside the central business district was now blanketed in an eerie quietness and a bright full moon.



'That's 'our' sun, for 'us' below...' He closed his eyes, pulled on the latex gloves, and studied the fine powder as it escaped up his right wrist.



'Well, the city was a beehive of traffic jams and power cuts for the 'daylight people' earlier, apparently...'



The Crew watched the daylight people on the news, listened to their weather reports, and rants about sport, fashion and the version of politics they'd prefer. And sometimes, as result to keep sane and for lack of entertainment, they'd listen-in on how the outside world adapted to how the invisible mechanics turned the clock. You know... with technology and voting and so on... It's all very exciting for the daylight people. The Crew was jealous of the clear-cut confident views held of the world between those real hours from 5am to midnight...



At the time it cost the government a fortune to keep society isolated and protected, but now, in later years, the system was merely maintained.



Brian read over an old report from the man who taught him everything he knew... including the necessity of a reserve of his own life fluid for...



"... Rare blood types can cause supply problems for blood banks and hospitals. For example, Duffy-negative blood occurs much more frequently in people of African origin, and the rarity of this blood type in the rest of the population can result in a shortage of Duffy-negative blood for these patients. Similarly, for RhD negative people, there is a risk associated with travelling to parts of the world where supplies of RhD negative blood are rare, particularly East Asia, where blood services may endeavour to encourage Westerners to donate blood... The blood group may be included on identification tags or on tattoos worn by military personnel, in case they should need an emergency blood transfusion. Front-line German Waffen-SS had blood group tattoos during World War II..."



Brian recalled his first meeting with the old man...



'No, you can't have sunshine without a small measure of darkness...' The old man smilingly said as he stretched the gloves over his pale scarred and wrinkled hands. Looking over at a perspiring Brian as they sat the corpse up on the boat, they dressed it again and loosely zipped-up a damaged life jacket.'



But that had been many years before... Patient meticulous old Doc. Hong who turned 74 a week before, was given a courtesy tour of the South African facility that was his brain child. The latest and only idea ever franchised, not-for-profit.



What had passed as both Brian's home and office, were four cold and colourless concrete levels below in what used to be a busy banking establishment's basement area. Brian closed his eyes trying to imagine a multitude of colourfully dressed office workers. Men and woman - their heels echoing around the basement walls, all rushing in between parked vehicles and elevators where small talk would have been alive, all the way up to the many levels of aluminium and glass decorated work stations and boardrooms. There they lived out their purpose till home-time, day in and day out, up to the prevailing and failing Justice-system almost ground to a screeching halt...



Brian rubbed his tired eyes and reluctantly opened them, forced to scan the web for the after-effect of news on an incident at an alleged sex-slave kingpin's home two nights before.



'Police was still not forthcoming (no surprise...) on more information about the unexpected drowning of the owner. Just that it was ironic (must be Karma) that the verdict on a two year spanning court case, would have been the following day.'



'Personally I think the government overpaid for these buildings, but that's their business...' Brian later thought to himself as he climbed the narrow concrete stairs from his sleeping quarters and office - which appeared identical on every level as he climbed. The three levels above ground level appeared the identical lifeless grey as below with all windows left intact outside, but bricked-up on the inside and cemented as a final closing touch.



'Not that anyone was going to escape...' Brian thought.



Having paused briefly, he greedily drank in the cool imported air abundant in the passages linking the underground trolley-ways to the other two buildings. Just wide enough for one hospital bed trolleyed in one direction at a time, and only five feet in height. The place was an engineering fête based on the facility in Korea. Ironically the other facilities in the world for a change didn't say 'Made In Korea', but Brian felt they all should have... He smiled at the idea. Smiling was becoming a foreign expression he more and more seldom did. Psychological evaluations had much to say about operating under ground or secluded for extended periods. Then again, that was the preferred part for Brian and his colleagues.



Most of the electricity consumed at the facility had mainly been for cooling, well..., freezing. And when pressing circumstances demanded, the crematorium dipped deep into the gas supply.



Separately located stainless steel designed units were categorised on separate levels, catering for either male or female, and again for ethnicity, approximate weight, and lastly blood groups and age.



The outside air which rushed in and down past the fifty-meter concrete corridor was colder tonight, and for a summer's night, best guess, it had to be raining outside. It made sense that these locations had a preference all over the modern world to semi-industrial areas. It's unassumingly and borderline abandoned feel, especially at night, was ideal.



'Tonight' Brian thought, would be a short drive in the outside world taking exactly 13 minutes allowing for a detour around a police roadblock that will be held outside Catherine Street in Sandton. Then the loading, that's 4 minutes, and back again, 13 minutes.



Brian again peeked at his wristwatch and bolted up the last two flights of chilly stairs. A dark blue Volkswagen panel-van was parked-in by his idling ambulance. Brian lifted the stainless steel clipboard to take advantage of the overhead fluorescent light and squinted. He habitually felt with his left palm for the butt of his Glock pistol under his leather jacket.



"Male, Asian, 61 Kilograms, A+ blood group, Needle marks - None, Age 33, Tattoos - None, All organs intact, Pre-autopsy, Cranial bones (no fractures), Facial bones (no fractures), Dental records - awaited"



"Female, White, 54 Kilograms, Age 41, O-blood group, No tattoos, All organs intact, Pre-autopsy, Cranial bones (no fractures), Facial bones - (no fractures), Dental records - awaited".



(Can't wait to meet them.)



"Coming Brian?"



"Yes, sorry, we're loading three, I only have two on the list?"



"The other is unconfirmed, here., his home address, not state mortuary. His family is asleep. Wait... Yes". Pressing and releasing his earphone, Brian's colleague ended the call with field-staff, while hurriedly scribbling the address down, and tearing off the note from the pad he jammed into his jacket pocket.



"Here".



"You're serious, since when..?"



"Needed for tonight at this airport... look... this one's for transport, not storage..."



"When will the incident...?"



"Tomorrow..., will be discovered by staff..."



(Great, and the winner for this field trip is... wait for it... wait... drum-roll...)



"Brian if you want to go back up permanently next year and leave all this behind... new identity, country of your choice..."



(And there it is folks, we have a winner...!) "John... OK, yes, fine..."



"The country owes you Brian".



"Really Mike, really? The country is asleep, confused, and when it wakes... it won't know what it wants..."



"I know Brian and I'm sorry, I'm just..."



"Yes, yes, just following orders, it's for the greater good... and so on... and so forth..." (Did I make a deal with the Devil or what..?)



"Let's go..."



The massive steel roller-shutter door which appeared to have every hallmark of a decade's overuse stuttered as it rattled open - allowing the copied version of the real ambulance (elsewhere) to slowly exit, as it crawled over the loose gravel stones - closely followed by the dark panel van. A satisfied Brian radio'd the waiting field-team, while not taking his eyes off the rear view mirrors as he in typical paranoid fashion, read the walls and doors of the spooky scenery of mothballed factories painted in the rear view mirror.



Orange hazing bounced intermittently off the bonnet and dashboard as the dark van overtook Brian and John and two minutes later, before advertising their hazard-lights ceased at the traffic lights near the on ramp to the free way. Falling in - in front of the ambulance, they allowed for a speeding BMW to steal their safe following distance. All three vehicles travelled the on ramp to the free way and remained in convoy till they reached Grayston Drive off ramp.



At 2am Brian and John took a brisk walk in the pelting rain back to the ambulance. With the van waiting in the far dark distance down the road, the silver BMW just briefly flickered its hazards after a short chubby bold man in a lab overcoat locked up the hanger door and got in on the passenger side.



Brian returned the courtesy and flipped the hazard light switch. He yawned as he waited for the van to pass the ambulance. A short drive later the BMW joined in again and the convoy returned home, this time again with the van leading all the way... just before the off ramp, the silver BMW left the convoy, changed lanes, hazards again, and disappeared into the night.



The only witnesses to the two vehicles coming home and entering the seemingly abandoned building, were the other two dilapidated factories.



Inside, Brian and now Eddie followed two ex national intelligence colleagues who wheeled two occupied ambulance beds to the waiting goods' elevator. Brian hated when reference was made to "stock", but in an unreal world that's what these two corpses were... stock.



At 11am Brian stirred his coffee and took a big bite of his salad sandwich. He paused as he listened in on the news about a suicide at the airport, and continued stirring...



"The owner of Cherokee Piper Airlines; according to reports, had taken his life in his helicopter hangar and was discovered slumped backwards inside one of the helicopters, by staff this morning".



Brian emailed to the State Prosecutor in Johannesburg who, having noted the report, would wait for local detectives to eventually forward their 'Inquest docket' and accompanying autopsy report to Court. Detectives would much later be notified of the final decision close the matter. In these instances, most had been instructed to close.



In upcoming days a visiting soldier from China and a police woman in her early forties from Prague would join The Crew. Sworn to secrecy and continuing their respective investigations into sex-slave and illegal arms cartels, they 'officially' didn't exist any more. A failing global legal system gave birth to a macabre system, supported by people whose existence have seized. And because of that, their results could only be blamed on either bad luck or Karma and society could sleep a little deeper for a little longer...



"Pity you're married"



Excuse me?



"Jill is outside, treasure her, and the moments together. You're off the force, in a way... we've designed a new cover for you. Investment banker. You're out of here and off the premises in six hours. The longest de-briefing yet. I'm..."



You're Jill?



"No. Well yes inside the program... This may hurt a little. It's a minor glitch. It will work itself out".



I don't understand. I'm Brian? And my memories... belong to me? Which is real?



"The question to life. What is real?"



The End


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