Tempus fugit.

1. There was but one single hourglass, which was indeed working properly—the Big Bang. It was one thing I was damn sure of. So, the girl had lied.I could tell something was wrong from the moment I had entered the Interrogation Room. On the table in front of me lay the phrenologist’s and the physiologist’s reports regarding the ghastly killing I was to investigate, and they both seemed to contradict my inner thoughts. Payer Thornton was, without a doubt, one of the best phrenologists I had ever worked with; he could tell what kind of murderer hides behind the mask of the human face with an almost 70 per cent precision, and this was indeed something to envy. I did not know the physiologist personally, he had been transferred not long ago from somewhere near New Edinburgh, but his record was flawless. And yet, I knew from the very first second that the witness was keeping something from us, something deadly.

If I tried to describe the feeling, I would surely fail. The procedure seemed quite mundane, Selise Carlton being connected to the tubes that slowly drained most of her blood, weakening her will and her reactions, in order to reveal the dark truth. She had practically faded in front of me, plunged into an expected state of deep lethargy, a trance from which she, mesmerized, answered all my questions; and so, there was not a single scientific piece of evidence to support my theory, but I was convinced I was right.

And then she knew what the time was—and the problem was, she knew precisely.

I felt the chills down my spine because I also knew Big Bang lay on the other side of the city, and I didn’t believe in coincidences. I had never believed in things like that, not even for a moment. To me, it was all clear—Selise must have found the information somewhere.

And there was only one answer to the question, where from?: at one point, the girl had had access to a watch—an electronic one.

I shook my head, bewildered. The maintainers, with their huge security armours (they were forced to wear the armour even if they were sentenced for non-violent crimes, though The Merciful Party had tried a few times to oppose this legal procedure) were taking off the magnetic tapes from the walls for the Repairing Room to shoot for a later recovery of the “dialogue”. It was, of course, quite stupid—at least lately, since most of the questions and answers from the Interrogation Room had become impossible to restore; the tapes kept deteriorating every single damn day, and the records were all incomplete, faded and distorted. We could not make new tapes any longer; we never could. Thus, our records captured what the hand apparatus could handle, and only a shade of everything else.

As for the witness, I had no worries at all. She would recover quite fast, I believed, after the medicine men have taken care of her, using large quantities of Dippel Oil; I had not lost more than two witnesses in all my career.

I was one of the best.

But this time, I felt myself falling behind. Regarding the fact, I followed the right course of action—I pressed the hand lever of my mobile chair, letting myself be carried to the communication wall, and after an imperceptible hesitation, I stopped in front of the panel of pneumatic mail. I was forbidden to use it more than once a day, but this was a clear case of extreme emergency. I considered again the horrible possibility, which had frozen my mind seconds earlier, then I slid the red-iron cube in the mail hole and I pressed the button for the National Department of Eschatology.

With an unpleasant, metallic sound, the cube disappeared into the darkness.

 

2. The steam-balloon moved forward with a constant velocity, its dramatic noise flooding the Navigation Corridor No. 14. Below, the mechanical chariots slid on their rails, the “perpetuums”—the usual perpetual motion devices— distinctively added to every wheel, and the gigantic, handmade engine amplifier stuck on the lower side. Even so, the traffic was hell, the chariots, the rails and all the other machines and apparatuses were often failing their duties, their functions damaged and deteriorated in a chaos of iron and steam. Public transport didn’t guarantee safety, but I couldn’t afford wasting time walking; though I profoundly regretted the comfortable hat and the light, easy-to-wear riding coat, made of half-plasticized texture. Still, it offered enough protecting in the free zones of the dying city.

Two theories were gaining support at that particular moment, theories which attempted to explain the failing of the mechanical system, but I was not convinced either was correct. There was at first The Twain Theory of the Failing Fields, dealing with small interferences in the Planetarium magnetic field which lead to deficiencies and discrepancies, in a “Snowball Effect” (there had been no snow to be seen for almost 40 years now, but they still used the expression), and there was also The Theory of The Acceleration Of Time, claimed by a few scientologists and theoreticians; they believed that our planet had a limited time of existence, which had reached the final countdown. I was not sure either theory could really explain the problems we were facing; just as I was not sure even for a moment that the face-rubber filter could really defend me against the corrosive action of the increasing deadly smog, or that the false leather jacket I wore could have the effect of protecting my skin from air infections.

The National Department of Eschatology was right there, beyond Big Bang, but I could see from the steam-balloon the deep cracks in the mechanized ceramic of the huge Hourglass. Ten years before, they had been so thin, you could barely perceive them when standing in front of the apparatus. Whatever was really happening, it had become clear enough by then that time was running out for London Victor.

Many fires were burning near the West End cupolas, in the attempt to capture the almost inexistent clouds in a futile hope of a few isolated raindrops. I smiled, tired. The persistent action of the two meteorologists left, with their stupid, ineffective natural theories, drove my thoughts again to the other two nations I believed still fought with their own Time, wondering in fear if they could manage.

Three long, cold years had passed since our last contact with the Oriental America, once the oceanic cable had finally deteriorated. But Japachin still stood on, and their scientists seemed overly optimistic. I personally think they were mad, or they were all lying. They said—but then again, could this be the bare truth? They were at least six years behind us, and their mechanical clocks still worked.

Definitely—they lied.

A roar, suddenly—the steam-balloon attached itself on the anchor cable, shaking and swinging in the foggy air. The mobile bridge was instantly lowered, but of course it passed my gondola. An effort—I jumped toward the bridge, avoiding the abyss below at the last moment. One of the mechanical safety arms stabbed my shoulder, cutting through my flesh and pressing mercilessly on my bone, but for an instant, I was certain I might fall, and in a strange flash of horror and relief, my mind slipped to the dismembered, human torso they had found in the murky, low waters of the Thames, and to the electronic watch which I believe the girl had seen at that moment.

There was no doubt—we were running out of Time.

 

3. “Daniel O’Bannon, eschatologist. Archlord John Cyrus.”

“Joyce Cheyney,” I introduced myself, “Sirs. Lieutenant”.

It was for the first time I saw an Archlord in the flesh. I had only heard about them until then. I knew they were wealthy and strong, extremely smart and very well trained, but their self-imposed isolation made them irascible and unreliable.

Some said they were completely insane.

But these were only wild rumours. Though the inquiries they conducted lead to more deaths than usual, John Cyrus looked neither unreliable nor mad, at least not to me. He was taller than I, very thin but athletic, with handsome, impassive features. He had thrown his lightly-textured, velvet-rubber facial mask on one of the chairs, but he had kept his elegant, stylish smocking, all covered in square pieces of soft plastic and metal insertions. He undoubtedly had more iron on him than all our police officers together, and I was pretty sure he had enhanced his reactions by using drugs and medical knowledge. He held the black, magnetic working-stick, probably so well designed that it opened most of the doors and gates of London Victor, or at least of the Smog Centre. He showed no signs of baldness under the hairnet, and his hair, still long, was carefully treated with medicated oils.

He must have been in perfect health—so it was normal for me to hate him.

The eschatologist seemed more mundane, cloaked in his dark robe, and the visor cap with the strained-glass window copying all of his features, so we could easily recognize him. They had never taken off their visor caps from the moment one of the Maintenance inmates was overcame by the heaviness of his own security armour and brutally smashed the head of the well-known Martyn Paller, the chief-eschatologist at that time. Of course, all the bones of the criminal were broken in the process, but Paller was now dead, and the attacker still wore armour—an even heavier one.

Will this stop him next time? I wouldn’t bet on it.

But the visor caps and the strained-glass windows attached to them became a must, and now you could not see any eschatologist without one.

I ducked to avoid the lightning gas-globe, which was flowing due to the gusts of air blown by the breathing device in the corner of the room; the helium pillow, which sustained the gas-globe slightly changed its course, but I did not care. I threw my own facial filter on a chair and finally took a deep breath of the relatively clean air. Then I gave the papers to O’Bannon.

He took a very short look at them, briefly analyzing the data. Cyrus did not even seem interested.

Both of them looked as if they had already known.

“First of all,” the eschatologist whispered slowly, “I want to congratulate you for your quick reaction. Of course we have already found out about the headless torso, and the meaning of it, but we have not imagined that the girl had found a real artefact.”

“But had she indeed found one?” I was not completely sure of that. “I mean, those kinds of artefacts… do they really exist?”

O’Bannon nodded.

“There was at least one. We do not know if it truly showed the exact hour, or if the owner set it on a regular basis in order to match the hourglasses we had back then, but for all we know, it seemed authentic. However, it vanished a long time ago, and its owner disappeared as well. A medicine man called Patter Floydd. The first known victim of The Torso Killer.”

I looked at him in confusion.

The Torso Killer?”

“It is not an isolated incident, Lieutenant.” Cyrus spoke in an academic manner, like a professor in front of an ignorant student. It was also clear that the smog did not affect his vocal cords. I believe—I believed by then—he could also sing, if he wanted to.

Not that I could imagine someone singing—I had never heard of anyone really doing a thing like that.

“In fact, we have many similar attacks to deal with, but it is not this that really matters.” The eschatologist inspired some oxygen, and then let the tube hang by the central wall. He did not offer me the tube to breathe along with him. “What is crucial, Lieutenant,” he went on, “is that the attacks are becoming more and more aggressive, and they are taking place at shorter intervals. And even more, you know, the first attack occurred at the same precise moment when the first crack in the Big Bang suddenly appeared.”

 

4. Twelve attacks, no less, they were sure. Dismembered, headless human torsos, in more than one location. Impossible to identify the remains—all the victims were wearing the common magnetic buttoned jackets. However, they had managed to identify Floydd, thanks to the medical badge on his bare chest, of course unless it had been the killer’s set up. The supposed electronic wristwatch was missing as well; it had disappeared together with his hand. And after every attack, the cracks in the mechanical ceramics of the Hourglass became larger and deeper, and the entire temporal system seemed shaken and shortened. The machineries failed, and all the apparatuses were going wrong. The smog was conquering the city step by step—and most of all, Time was running out quicker and quicker.

I didn’t understand what they were trying to say.

What was the connection?

“Our theory,” O’Bannon said, “is Patter Floydd had found something, some kind of a doorway. He thus passed through it in other timelines. Linear timelines you see, where the whole society lay in the mists of Superstition and of Electricity. Did you know documents about Speed really exist?…”

In fact, I had often heard such speculations. Cutting through Time, they called the procedure. Or something a lot easier to achieve—really fast machineries. Trains, they called them.

“Can you even imagine, Lieutenant, an underground vehicle sparkling on the rails, and speeding up to two hundred kilometres per hour?” The eschatologist’s voice was only a whisper. “How many travellers could survive a journey like this, and what would be their physical state by the end of it? What safety costumes would be needed in order to achieve this? And what would be its effect on our Time, once the Time itself is easily surpassed by the speeding of such an apparatus? How would this affect our society, and which would be the direct consequences?”

The question was pure rhetoric.

How exactly, they say some already knew, and this knowledge goes back a while ago,” John Cyrus suddenly spoke to me, making me shiver. “There is a place in Time, where so many timelines intermingle, that the Time as we know it has lost its objectivity and became vulnerable and faded. How could anyone value the very concept of Time, if its meaning is totally different for the man working behind his desk from that of the woman brutally making her way through the Planetarium’s atmosphere, locked in a metallic box—electric propulsion system added, or even in a box which is faster than the legendary electric one? A new Force, better than Electricity and way better than Steam, a Force which uses Time against Time itself, cutting through it doorways to other timelines? How could such a primitive mechanism as a…let’s say…hourglass, work in such a world? Even an enhanced, adjustable one?”

At once I understood everything in horror.

“They had gone beyond the Mechanics…” I muttered the very words.

“Or at least that’s what they thought,” O’Bannon confirmed. “We will never really know. On the other hand, some of the scientologists were sure at one precise point that Mechanics also interferes with every timeline, shortening it drastically, though not as fast as Electrics, or Electronics, or any other legendary or invented Forces. Salvation was at hand with the bio-organics, they said. Live with nature, you still remember, I must presume. But it does not matter right now. Nature is an option we no longer have. There are no animals anymore.”

“But… The Torso Killer?”

The Torso Killer comes from somewhere out there, it is reasonable to think so. When Time began to fall for the very first time, when the day was suddenly shortened, and the night also passed faster than we could believe at that moment, some of the most renowned scientologists offered Mechanics as a solution. There was a vote, which included Organics as an option as well, but it lost the battle. Maybe they were right after all. Anyway, the Electricity and other powerful Forces we used by then—Witchcraft and Genetics, for example, were forever shut down. But the thin, transparent cracks in our timeline were already there, and somehow they had to be repaired. They did it all right: but someone or something was trapped there in the process. Someone or something, set free a while ago by the unauthorized experiments of Patter Floydd. Someone I bet, someone who knows by heart the chart of every time-crack, and that of every doorway in Time too. Someone who is advancing on a time corridor at this very moment, and who does not close the door very well after he has entered or left our timeline. And so the cracks are becoming deeper and deeper, bringing our world to its ruins.

“And this someone—I am pretty sure he wears an electronic wristwatch.”

 

5. John Cyrus carefully put the magnetic head of his working-stick into the slit, turning the opening mechanism to the right. The heavy iron gate slowly moved on its rails, with a powerful, unavoidable noise. But there was no other option. Together we entered the building.

The huge hall was deserted, or at least it seemed at a first glance. The Archlord signalled me, pointing his protected finger towards the light doors, which were silently gliding along the dark walls, and I hesitantly walked in that direction. An uneasy, unpleasant feeling was grasping my heart and my mind, but John Cyrus was cool as always. Then again, his weapon was probably working; mine, I was not sure.

I was wondering whether my state of mind was due to the unnerving events I was witnessing, or rather to the well-known phobia of working with an Archlord; I could not find a proper answer. It was pretty clear I was deeply affected by what they had revealed to me, but the idea of the deadly and invisible Torso Killer, lurking in the shadows of Time, hunted by me and by my unstable, merciless solver, was not particularly appealing either. The Archlords, acting as solvers, were known not to fear of losing their lives—they had no reason for fear, practically, as they were very well armed and trained and so on, and they also did not care a bit about the lives of their investigators. Had I been lost during the inquiry, there would not have been so much of a problem for either the Chamber of Archlords or for the Investigators’ Core, I presume.

In fact, I was sure of it, and that was probably why I felt so nervous.

Instinctively, I touched my pistol in my fob, urged by the need of checking its mechanism. I did not dare, however. Cyrus might have seen it as a personal offence, and he might have killed me on the spot, or at least he could have passed a note in my case file, which would have destroyed my career. I could not afford something like that—I barely had enough money for maintaining my precarious health.

And I would have liked to stay healthy.

But more than this—I would rather have stayed alive.

I sincerely would have preferred the company of O’Bannon, but I knew very well that the eschatologists never worked on the field. They were but a few, and they would not have risked losing a member of their Department. In a way, I should have thanked them they had not sent me alone on the mission, because the stand-alone investigator of Section 7’s latest case had, of course, died.

Finally, I concluded it was better this way—having the Archlord as a solver.

But, for the moment, John Cyrus did not seem interested in me at the very least. He was moving forward along the dark corridor, a corridor deprived of any magnetic sound tapes, and he pressed his now fluorescent working-stick against the black wall, for the friction to maintain the luminescence. I was wondering how much the stick had cost, and suddenly I realized it was probably more than I could afford in ten days.

We were in a house, which O’Bannon believed was one of the hiding places of Patter Floydd’s adepts, among whom Selise Carlton was as well. The eschatologist was sure these had a connection of some sort with the killer, as they might have known the doorways, which he usually used. The damn, bloody doorways that were causing the cracks in our shortening timeline, cracks because all our mechanisms failed. It was the doorways used by The Torso Killer to enter into our bleeding world, for cutting off heads and hands, and for leaving behind the victims’ torsos.

The doorways were for us to find.

It was the third safety house we were visiting that day, but this was probably the right one, because Selise had been spotted there by one of our men. Had we got lucky, we could have discovered some leads. The Patternians were not a well-structured organization, they barely knew each other, and from time to time both the National Department of Eschatology and the Purity Party arrested their men, making the issue less of a problem. But among the sectarians there were also skilled adepts, former geologists or even amateur engineers, who often managed to escape the raids. They worked in the shadows and they knew pretty much about the experiments Patter Floydd illegally conducted, so it was one of these men we needed to encounter, so we could make him lead us to one of the doorways.

Because we were sure of one thing—there were more than one time-corridor.

It was behind a radiant hearth; one with a simplistic, old mechanism, that John Cyrus finally found the path we were looking for.

The path leading us to death and destruction.

The hearth silently turned over, which meant that it was constantly used by someone; it revealed its dark secrets to us that afternoon, once the Archlord had activated the right combination of numbers in the ancient cipher, and the black corridor which opened before our eyes took us into the heart of the building. Pistol at hand, I followed John Cyrus towards the place where Time was dying, corroding our ways and our world in a last, futile attempt to objectivity.

 

6. It was a laboratory all right, similar to those I had seen many times before at the experimentalists or other Scientologic-founded sects. But this one was a lot bigger. Bigger and better equipped, with retorts and apparatuses and other strange mechanisms, still-working “perpetuums” and, of course, hourglasses—the latter were not functioning properly, as I had expected anyway, yet they were still working better than those in the city—and this was in itself very wrong.

Or was I mistaken?

Two quick steps and John Cyrus was now standing in front of the huge artglass I recognized as a beautifully manufactured old mirror. Its frame was golden, and its mechanisms were crossing under the steel like veins in a man’s body, in a vast and complicated iron net, more complicated than we could ever construct, than we could have constructed even fifty years before.

It was not our work, I was pretty sure, but then, I wondered, who had made it?

Archlord John Cyrus took off his personal annunciator.

“Here it is,” he phlegmatically said, “here is the doorway. This is the path that leads him into our world, this is what he enters. I don’t know how he does it exactly, but we have obviously found a time-corridor, and it is pretty clear all the same it is used on a regular basis. Time-waves are propagating during his travels, but the archseal keeps the Time here in the lab in a relative state of suspension, making it almost stable; that is why the hourglasses here work better than anywhere else.”

I could not deny his theory—in the darkness surrounding us, it surely seemed the right one.

A shiver, and then my eyes followed John Cyrus who was searching for a ventilation hole, from where he could signal the situation to O’Bannon, and that was when I clearly heard the liftube trigger, the heavy spiral slackening with a roar and the chain started to roll down on the gigantic iron wheel.

Someone was coming up.

In the blink of an eye, the Archlord made his decision. He moved behind a medium hand-guillotine, shortly signalling me with his gloved fingers, and I instantly ducked under the massive metal desk, covered in cables and communication devices. And I almost completely held my breath, because I so desperately wanted to stay alive.

Through the two copper drawers of the metal chest, I saw the stranger entering the darkness of the room and head toward us.

His face appeared pale and lost, and he wore no facial breathing filter. His eyes were twinkling as if he were mad—which he was for sure. The topper on his head had two metallic strips, so I concluded he had taken it from somewhere, and his black cloak was decorated with magnetic insertions. I was not in the least a phrenologist, but I had seen enough madness and obsession in my life to know I had a very deranged man in front of me.

And if I had any doubts, the stranger was wearing an electronic wristwatch.

 

7. Difficult to proceed further with my story, because everything went from wrong to worse. However, I will try to maintain my coherence, if possible. I can tell exactly neither the chronology of the incidents, nor what the connection between them was, because at that point the timeline had already broken; but I shall try a reconstitution. I have done this many times before—but this time it will be much more difficult to handle, that is for sure.

Let’s see.

I believe John Cyrus was the first to take action. He launched his lightning signal through the square ventilation hole, and the man with the wristwatch grunted, when he understood he was not alone in the building. At once he leapt forward, to the dark looking-glass. I instantly stood up and shot at him, but the pistol misfired as it was expected. His weapon, however, did not. The targeting bullet hit me directly in the chest, bringing me down. I was in shock, but I realized the mechanism of the guided missile was still working, making its way through the thin kevlar of my jacket, so I desperately fumbled in order to take it off. It was but a fraction of a second, but I did see John Cyrus taking his shot, and his pistol was indeed functional. The bullet pierced through the killer’s black heart, pushing him through the glass of the mirror at the very moment the object itself was letting its frame behind, and the transparent, cloudy parallelogram quickly span in the middle of the bleeding room, taking along both The Torso Killer and Archlord John Cyrus—for ever.

And then there was but me in the deserted lab, lying haggard on the floor and stupidly staring at the guided missile which was still slowly turning in the abandoned jacket, penetrating the protection of the texture in a useless attempt of finding the flesh.

 

8. Shortly, The Department’s emergency railed-chariot found me as it followed the lighting drawn on the sky by the Archlord only seconds before he disappeared in the dead arms of Time. Two nervous officers helped me to get in, after two other agents had been assigned to watch the strange old living mirror. Through the small communication device incorporated in the chariot’s door, the Chief-Inspector Wilhelm Paddy asked me, with an official voice, to hurry, because it was imperious that he have a talk with me.

This did not sound good, but I didn’t care.

He spoke to me all right, while we descended in the darkness of the stairs which lead to the very basement of the Police Department. The basement usually flooded, though rain is a rare phenomenon these days. The basement we scarcely used for our deteriorated archive. Strangely enough, all of the paths of the Torso Killer seemed related to water. As if water was easing his travels, or even more, as if he was lead by it.

The headless, dismembered human torso lay at the end of the old, rotten stairs, and the escutcheon symbolizing the fanged wheel confirmed me that the dead man was in fact John Cyrus. I was not at all surprised at the death of the Archlord, though I knew very well what the consequences were. What surprised me, however, even shocked me, I may say, was the second pile of human remains.

Impossible to be mistaken.

The second torso had a bullet hole straight through its heart.

There was no Torso Killer after all.

He had never existed, not for a second.

The machinery was responsible for the deaths.

The looking-glass, the doorway, the mirror.

It killed the insane adepts of the insane Patter Floydd, who stupidly worshipped a wristwatch left behind by their blind god, the wristwatch every sectarian leader wore and then passed on to the next one before trying the corridor, allowing the destructive time-waves to invade the failing atmosphere of the Planetarium and corroding more and more the seal our wise ancestors had made to protect us all.

The seal already cracked and broken, the seal we could not repair, because we did not have the necessary technology.

And the very thing the last rationals had made as a deadly trap in order to discourage travellers became an irresistible attraction for the madmen and clowns, in their savage attempt to find a new path to the other timelines, an attempt based only on the stupid belief that we could save ourselves if we followed a simple, useless electronic artefact.

 

9. I knew something was wrong from the moment I had entered the Interrogation Room. On the table in front of me lay the phrenologist’s and the physiologist’s reports regarding the ghastly killings I was to investigate – the infamous Torso Killer case –, and they both seemed to contradict my inner thoughts. Payer Thornton was, without a doubt, one of the best phrenologists I had ever worked with; he could tell what kind of murderer hid behind the mask of the human face with almost 70 per cent precision, and this was indeed something to envy. I did not know the physiologist personally, he had been transferred not long ago from somewhere near New Edinburgh, but his record was flawless. And yet, I knew for the very first second the witness kept something from us, something deadly.

If I tried to describe the feeling, I would surely fail. The procedure seemed quite mundane, Lieutenant Joyce Cheyney being connected to the tubes which slowly drained most of his blood, weakening his will and his reactions, in order to reveal the dark truth. He had practically faded in front of me, plunged into an expected state of deep lethargy, a trance from which he, mesmerized, answered all my questions; and so, there was not a single scientific piece of evidence to support my theory, but I was convinced I was right.

And then he told me about O’Bannon—that was a problem.

I felt the chills down my spine, because I also knew O’Bannon had died early that morning, with a single missile hole in the centre of his strained-glass visor window, shot by some member of the Merciful Party. And John Cyrus was dead all the same, so there was no one to support the testimony.

To me, it was clear—the man was lying.

I shook my head, bewildered, trying to figure out if he had had access to the morning guttenberg, where the news about the eschatologist’s death was manually added. The maintainers, with their huge security armours on (they were forced to wear the armour even if they were sentenced for non-violent crimes, though The Merciful Party had tried a few times to oppose this legal procedure), were taking off the magnetic tapes from the walls, for the Repairing Room to shot for a later recovery of the “dialogue”. It was, of course, quite stupid—at least lately, since most of the questions and answers from the Interrogation Room had become impossible to restore; the tapes kept deteriorating every single damn day, and the records were all incomplete, faded and distorted. We could not make new tapes any longer; we never could. Thus, our records only kept what the hand apparatus could handle, and only a shade of everything else.

As for the witness, I had no worries at all. He would recover quite fast, I believed, after the medicine men have taken care of him, using large quantities of Dippel Oil; I had lost some witnesses in my career, but this would not be one of them.

He was one of the best.

The hypothesis was absurd. And much too convenient for him. The old mirror was carefully examined and analyzed, and nothing suggested it was more than a simple, common artefact. The hourglasses and the other mechanisms we had found in the lab barely worked to prove anything. And the two beheaded, dismembered bodies in the Police basement were supporting the evidences we had about the existence of The Torso Killer.

But even so, I felt myself falling behind. An Archlord was required for this kind of inquiry—maybe, more than one. I pressed the hand lever of my mobile chair, letting myself be carried to the communication wall, and, after an imperceptible hesitation, I stopped in front of the panel of pneumatic mail. I was forbidden to use it more than once a day, but this was a clear case of extreme emergency. I considered again the horrible possibility, which had frozen my mind seconds before; it seemed unlikely, but the risks were too high to not follow the well-known course of action. I slid the red-iron cube in the mail hole, and I pressed the button for the National Department of Eschatology.

With an unpleasant, metallic sound, the cube disappeared into the darkness.

Translation from Romanian by C.I.