for her past, Inspector Anastasia Flowers of the Children's Department
was perfectly ordinary in every way.
was of medium height (1 meter 65) and medium weight (she fluctuated
between 60 and 65 kilos, depending on the time of year and her
diet-to-exercise ratio). Her hair was medium brown. Her eyes were
medium blue. She was 37, so too old to be called young, but too
young to be called old. About ten years ago she had gotten married
to an accountant named Michael Whistler. They had two children,
Jacob and Dacey. Jacob was nine and Dacey was seven.
look at Inspector Flowers's official records would show that she
had neither failed nor excelled in anything. She had not sought
advancement in her current job, but when the promotion from Deputy
Inspector to Inspector had been offered, she had accepted it.
The pay raise would let her expand her garden.
Monday morning about a month after her promotion, her boss called
her into his office.
Flowers, please have a seat," said Captain Samuelson.
sat down, looking at the two people in the room.
Samuelson was a short, very stocky man with extremely black skin,
graying hair, and a strong resemblance to a bulldog. In contrast,
the woman sitting in the chair on the visitor's side of the desk
was tallat least 1 meter 80-slender, very blonde, and very
blue-eyed. She sat up very straight. The words "ice queen"
flashed through Inspector Flowers's mind. She guessed the ice
queen to be between 25 and 30 years old.
Anastasia Flowers, I'd like you to meet your new Deputy Inspector,
Ingrid Astlund," said Captain Samuelson. "Ingrid has
just joined the department, and is looking forward to working
Flowers had known she would eventually be teamed up with a Deputy
Inspector, but she was not sure how she felt about having to work
with the ice queen.
pleased to meet you, Ingrid," she said.
ice queen smiled, shook Inspector Flowers's hand, and said that
she was very pleased to be working with her. Captain Samuelson
told Inspector Flowers to show Ingrid around and then report for
the departmental briefing in half an hour.
behaved with perfect politeness to Inspector Flowers during their
tour, and asked a great many questions with what appeared to be
unfeigned enthusiasm, but Inspector Flowers was unable to shake
off the ice queen impression. Perhaps it was because of the way
Ingrid held herself so erectly, or her flawless manners.
six people in the department gathered for the briefing. Aside
from Ingrid and Inspector Flowers, there was Inspector Alice Thompson,
Deputy Inspector Alan Browning, Social Worker Judith Albarn, and
of course, Captain Samuelson.
Samuelson asked for reports on everyone's cases, and then informed
them that there was only one new case for the day. "What
do you think, Inspector Flowers?" he asked. "Can you
and Ingrid handle it, or do you need to spend more time getting
to know each other?"
can handle it," said Inspector Flowers.
I was hoping you'd say that, because I'd like to use the BI network
for this case, and Ingrid has BI capabilities, don't you, Ingrid?"
Captain Samuelson, and I also have experience in BBI interactions,
if that is of any use."
I'll keep it in mind. The situation is this: yesterday evening
at eighteen hundred hours Candace Andrews arrived at her daycare
center, the PlayPal Center at 255 Vine Street, to discover that
her four-year-old son Benjamin Andrews was missing. He was last
seen by his caretaker Beth Morrows at 17:45, playing in the sandbox
in the fenced-in playground. At approximately 17:45 one of the
other children fell off the see-saw and cut her knee. Beth took
her inside to clean and dress the cut. The first-aid room has
a window that looks out onto the playground, but the blinds were
drawn because of the strong sun yesterday. Having applied antiseptic
and wound-sealing gel to the cut, at approximately 17:55 Beth
returned to the playground along with the girl. The other three
children were engaged in a game of tag. Because they were running
around and shouting, she did not immediately notice that Benjamin
was missing, but the girl, who wanted to show off her cut, began
looking for him. By the time Candace Andrews arrived at the daycare
at approximately 18:10, Beth had already begun searching the premises.
Beth, Candace, and the other two employees at the daycare searched
the playground, the building, and the nearby blocks on Vine Street
without success. At 18:33 they called our station. Police officers
activated a chip search, they re-searched the daycare and the
street, and began door-to-door questioning, all without result.
This morning the case was officially turned over to our department."
kidnap note?" asked Inspector Flowers.
Candace Andrews in a position to pay out a large ransom?"
you think someone who kept her kid at the PlayPal Center would
be in a position to pay out a large ransom?"
How is Candace's personal life?"
Samuelson shrugged. "She lives with her husband, Aaron Smith.
Neither of them have ever been divorced. That's all we know right
now. Look into it. That might be something for Ingrid to use her
BI capabilities on. She can also check out the databases on kidnappers.
And check all the local hospitals, see if an unidentified child
has been brought in. Maybe he wandered onto the street, got hit
by a car, and was taken somewhere."
raised her hand. "Pardon me, sir," she said, "but
isn't he chipped? Wouldn't a hospital find out his identity as
soon as he came in?"
his chip was damaged or deactivated," said Captain Samuelson.
"The chip-search revealed nothing, which is why we think
there must be something suspicious going on here."
nodded like a bright student who's just been corrected by her
teacher. "Was he head-chipped or wrist-chipped, sir?"
He was only four, after all, and not everyone can afford to be
looked a little startled at Captain Samuelson's remark, but said
long do you think it will take you to go through all the data?"
Captain Samuelson asked.
an hour, sir. Do you have a BI connection here at the department?"
afraid local department budgets don't run to BI connections. You'll
have to go to Central. I'll call them and tell them to clear a
slot for you. Inspector Flowers can take you there."
soon as the meeting broke up Alan Browning came over to Ingrid.
Alan was about Ingrid's age, but not nearly as attractive. He
looked sort of like a male version of Inspector Flowers.
you done a lot of BI work?" he asked Ingrid, sounding impressed.
fair amount," she answered. "It was a standard part
of my program in college."
BBI work, too?"
so amazing! What's it like? Is it weird?"
can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you get used to
it, it's fascinating."
what about getting head-chipped? What's that like? Is it bad?"
not at all. You go to sleep, and when you wake up it's done. You
can have problems with headaches and dizziness for a few days,
but then it goes away and you feel fine."
don't they drill a hole in your skull?"
but it's a very tiny one. Here, you can see where they did mine."
Ingrid lifted up the hair above her left temple and pointed to
a tiny hairless spot just above the hairline. "The hair will
never grow back," she said, "but the scar's not really
visible most of the time."
Flowers watched while Alan felt Ingrid's scar and oohed and aahed
over it. Alice Thompson and Judith Albarn were also gathered around
her, looking at the hole in her head with admiration. It occurred
to Inspector Flowers that she had been relegated to the position
of driver for Ingrid, ferrying her around so that she could plug
herself into other people's thoughts.
everyone else in the Federation, Inspector Flowers was chipped.
A tiny computer chip in her right wrist relayed information about
her identity and the state of her health to any health care or
law enforcement personnel who requested it. She could also be
tracked from up to a kilometer away. Inspector Flowers's chip
had several other, more exotic functions, but her colleagues didn't
know that. Exotic features notwithstanding, Inspector Flowers's
chip was still just a wrist chip, and as such did not give her
BI, or Brain Interface, capabilities.
had been around for several decades. In its crudest form one could
hook up to something like a virtual reality helmet and experience
electronic data streaming directly. It was slightly quicker than
accessing the web through a computer, and allowed the user to
retain the data more completely, but for the most part it was
not much better than traditional data-search-and-processing methods.
scientists had come up with head-chipping. Originally it had been
brain probes inserted into the skull. Inspector Flowers had heard
the original volunteers for those experiments were largely grad
students in IT departments, which would explain why they thought
signing up for it had been a good idea. Over the course of a decade
they had refined the process to the point where they were able
to place a microchip against the brain itself. Originally this
had just been used for the passive reception of information off
the web. Then people had started experimenting with telepathic
interaction. Two head-chippers could send and receive messages
with each other over cyberspace. This was Brain-to-Brain Interfacing,
or BBI. Inspector Flowers had done some unusual things in her
life, but the idea of engaging in BBI made her shudder. She preferred
to keep her brain inside her head, where it belonged.
you ready to go?" she asked, once it seemed that the others
were ready to stop wondering over Ingrid's chip.
course, Inspector Flowers, whenever you're ready," said Ingrid
obligingly. She gathered up her things and followed Inspector
Flowers to the parking lot, where the Inspector's car was parked.
If Ingrid thought that the car was rather shabby, she kept it
Flowers entered their destination into the car's computer, drove
it out onto the main street, and let the maglev system pick them
up and whisk them into the stream of traffic. She reflected that
Ingrid could probably have done all this herself, and as a driver
she, Anastasia Flowers, was rather redundant. On the other hand,
she told herself, Ingrid would need her to help decide what information
to look for.
made you decide to join the Children's Department?" she asked
I've always been interested in law enforcement, and I've always
wanted to help children, so it seemed like the perfect place for
me. Do you enjoy working here, Inspector Flowers? You must, I
would think, since you've been here for ten years."
done worse things. But it can be heart-breaking, you know."
Inspector Flowers paused for a moment. "You know we may not
find this kid, or he may be dead, right?"
frowned. "I'm going to find him," she said. "I
can't bear to think of the poor little thing, scared and alone."
She made an effort to cheer herself up. "So, what did you
do before you came here, Inspector Flowers?" she asked.
and that. Nothing very interesting. Then I got married, and I
needed a steady, stable job."
was an imposing high-rise building made of shiny metal and glass.
The Federation's law enforcement emblem, an abstract shape that
vaguely resembled a pair of handcuffs, was displayed on the roof
and on the front of the building.
parked and went inside. The interior was equally shiny and impressive.
An attractive red-haired woman whose uniform only enhanced her
appearance was sitting at the reception desk by the entrance.
She looked down her nose at Ingrid and Inspector Flowers, but
admitted reluctantly that Captain Samuelson had called and that,
in light of the serious nature of the case, a BI hook-up for Ingrid
would be available immediately.
walked down the shiny corridors, their footsteps echoing, until
they came to a room staffed by another, equally attractive, guard.
She had a tiny antenna poking through the hair above her left
temple, which Inspector Flowers realized must be a wireless BI
hook-up, and in fact when they told her their names, she rolled
her eyes back in her head for a moment, and then said, "Cleared.
You have station 3. Do you know how to do the hook-up?"
assured her that she did, and went over to station 3. The other
stations were empty, which made the fuss over Ingrid's immediate
access seem a little excessive.
I talk to you while you're interfacing?" Inspector Flowers
but you may need to catch my attention in order to do soI
may be so focused on the interface I won't notice. I have a late-model
chip, so I can download all the information we need onto it and
upload it onto a reader when we get back to the station."
sat down, and Ingrid picked up a thin flexible cord, one end of
which disappeared into the wall. She applied some kind of gel
out of a tube that was sitting on the table in front of them to
the scar on her head and stuck the cord to the spot. When she
took her hands away the cord remained in place.
the next hour she sat there with her eyes closed, while Inspector
Flowers asked her questions and reminded her of things to check.
By the end of the hour they had determined that Candace Andrews
and her husband were neither rich nor in financial difficulties.
They had never been divorced, and they were not currently in any
kind of custody battle over the child. Their mental and legal
profiles were normal. Benjamin Andrews was in good mental and
physical health, and his chip had no record of previous malfunction.
They also went through the databases on kidnappers, and the information
on all the people who lived on Vine Street, and came up with nothing.
no obvious reason for his disappearance," stated Inspector
said Ingrid, detaching herself from the BI cord and cleaning off
the gel with a disposable wipe from a box sitting on the station
table. "Doesn't it seem odd to you that he could disappear
in such a short amount of time? I can't imagine him getting that
far in the ten minutes Beth Morrows was inside. And how did he
do it? The playground is fenced in, so he would have had to go
through the building to escape. And why didn't the other children
notice anything? There were other children in the playground with
him the entire time, weren't there? Surely they would have seen
good questions," said Inspector Flowers. "Why don't
we go to the daycare center and see what's what?"
* * *
most of the buildings on Vine Street, the PlayPal Center was basically
a box made of concrete and aluminum, a style that had been around
for several hundred years. It was painted a faded tannish-yellow,
and was surrounded by a chainlink fence. The playground had a
weathered swing-set, a faded see-saw, a worn-looking merry-go-round,
lines for hopscotch that were now barely visible, and the sandbox
where Benjamin Andrews had last been seen. The sandbox was missing
most of its sand. Toy trucks were half-buried in what was left.
sandbox is near the fence," observed Ingrid as they looked
around. "Maybe someone was able to come up to the fence and
snatch him that way."
asked Inspector Flowers. "The fence must be three meters
high. There's no way for Benjamin to go through it." She
scuffed around in the sandbox for a while. The sand in it had
been recently disturbed, although whether that was from ordinary
play activity or something more sinister she couldn't say. She
looked at the cracking in the asphalt nearby the sandbox, but
came to no useful conclusions.
about Beth?" she said, apparently to herself.
about Beth, the caretaker. What do we know about her? Maybe she
set this whole thing up. Maybe she's the one who snatched Benjamin."
said Ingrid doubtfully. "But what about the statements from
the other children? They all said that one minute Benjamin was
there, the next he was gone. It seems like it would be difficult
to get them to all lie about something like that."
said Inspector Flowers. She and Ingrid poked around in the daycare
building for a while, without finding anything useful.
said Inspector Flowers eventually, "there's no putting it
off any more. We need to go talk to Candace Andrews and Aaron
* * *
and Aaron lived just a few blocks away from the daycare, on Dallas
Street. All the buildings on the street were single-family houses
of faded vinyl. They had scraggly yards strewn with toys, and
chainlink fences around each yard. At 11:30 in the morning most
of the driveways were empty, but Candace and Aaron's house had
two cars parked in front of it.
Smith came to the door immediately after they rang the bell. He
was just as faded as his house, although Inspector Flowers couldn't
say whether it was because of his missing child, or if that was
his normal state. As soon as she introduced herself and Ingrid,
he demanded, "Have you found anything?"
yet, I'm afraid," she said. "I just wanted to ask you
and your wife a few questions."
he said. "Why waste your time? Why aren't you out looking
regular officers are out there looking," she said gently.
"But in order to conduct our search more effectively, we
need more information."
Smith led them to the living room, which was dark and full of
overstuffed furniture. Candace Andrews was sitting in armchair,
staring at the wall. She had a packet of tissues clutched in her
right hand, but seemed unaware of that fact. As soon as Inspector
Flowers entered the room, she leapt up.
you found anything? Have you found him?" she cried out.
Flowers told her as gently as possible that they hadn't. Candace
crumpled back down into her chair. She was thin, with shiny black
hair that was overdue for washing and brushing, and large dark
eyes that were very bloodshot. There were dark circles under her
dark eyes, and the remnants of yesterday's mascara were smeared
across her lower lids.
said Inspector Flowers, once Candace had calmed down, "I
know you've been asked this before, but can you think of anyone
who would want to take Benjamin? Anyone who had a grudge against
you, anyone who would want him for some reason?"
shook her head.
never had anyone express any, uh, covetous desires towards him?"
took a moment for Candace to grasp her meaning, but once she had,
she shook her head again.
about your cousin?" interjected Aaron suddenly.
said Candace weakly. "My cousin? Which cousin?"
Why Paula? Why are you talking about Paula when we have to find
this about Paula, Aaron?" asked Inspector Flowers.
first cousin Paula Andrews," explained Aaron. "She can't
have children, and she's always talking about how jealous she
is of Candy. She's just the kind of deranged person who'd steal
a child, I'll bet you."
talk about Paula that way!" shouted Candace. "Just because
you never liked her is no reason to go talking bad about her."
it, Candy, the woman is a freak, always talking about whatever
weird mysticism she's into at the moment. Is it Buddhism this
month, or Gnostic Revivalism, or Dr. Green's 10 Steps to Spiritual
Self-Enlightenment? Frankly, I don't see how you can stand her."
has been my closest friend since childhood!" shouted Candace,
and burst into tears.
crazy!" Aaron shouted back.
Candace, Aaron," said Inspector Flowers. "We need to
focus on the matter at hand, for Benjy's sake. Now, Candace, I
know you don't want to think badly of your cousin, but in cases
like these family members are frequently involved, or know the
people who are. If Paula is involved in any kind of cult, then
there's a possibility that she could have mentioned Benjy to someone
who decided to take him."
reluctantly gave them Paula's address, which was only a few blocks
away, on Houston Street. It was not hooked up to maglev, so Inspector
Flowers had to drive over there on her own power.
Street had started out life on the same plane as Dallas Street,
but had gone downhill since then. The lawns were even more scraggly,
and filled with a lot more trash and not as many toys. All the
houses were missing at least one window or piece of window trim.
Inspector Flowers had a strong suspicion that if she were to start
investigating back yards and back rooms, she would find distilleries
for a variety of controlled substances.
actually live like this?" exclaimed Ingrid in horror.
you never seen a neighborhood like this?"
don't even have maglev!"
you're going to be working in the Children's Department, you should
be prepared to spend a lot of time in these kinds of neighborhoods.
Many of our best clients come from places like this."
bit her lip, but said nothing.
pulled up to Paula's house, which was just as disreputable as
all the others on the block.
mysticism doesn't pay all that well," commented Inspector
Flowers as they got out of the car.
was no car in Paula's driveway, but in this neighborhood, absence
of a car did not necessarily mean absence of the occupant. And
in fact Paula, or at least a woman who looked enough like Candace
Andrews to be her sister, answered the doorbell on the first ring.
Andrews?" asked Inspector Andrews.
woman, who was thin with shiny black hair and big dark eyes, but
with a more pinched and less confident air than Candace, even
though it was not her child who was missing, said, "Yes"
somewhat anxiously, as if she were used to having official-looking
strangers come to her door.
Flowers introduced herself and Ingrid, and explained they were
searching for Paula's cousin Benjy. Paula invited them into her
house, which was under-lit and had a strong smell of cooking,
cigarettes, and controlled substances. Inspector Flowers had read
on the way over that Paula had a sometimes-boyfriend who was also
a sometimes-drug-dealer. Inspector Flowers wasn't sure how that
fit into Paula's lifestyle of spiritual enlightenment, but apparently
he was around the house enough to make his presence felt.
feel just terrible for Candy," said Paula. "Little Benjy
has been such a blessing in her life, and now he's gone. She was
so lucky to be able to have a child, and now it's been taken away.
Truly, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, and we must bow to His
will in all things, even when He is moved to test us. Even the
greatest trials are a blessing in disguise, meant to prove our
worthiness, so that we may pass into His eternal kingdom and be
united with our loved ones forever. Soon Candy and Benjy will
be together again in Heaven, and then how will they rejoice!"
looked rather startled. Inspector Flowers, although also slightly
taken aback, kept her face still.
us hope that Benjy has not passed into the Kingdom of Heaven just
yet," she said. "On the off chance he's still inhabiting
the earthly realm, we'd like to ask you a few questions."
questioning, however, only told Inspector Flowers that Paula was
a flake. Unfortunately, she was unable to connect Paula's flakiness
with Benjy's disappearance in any definite fashion.
Inspector Flowers was rising to leave, she noticed a picture sitting
on a low table near Paula's chair. It was not an ordinary 3D holopicture,
but a 2D image. As she examined it more closely, she realized
it was not even a photograph, but a drawing. It showed a middle-aged
man dressed soberly in black pants and a white button-down shirt,
with a broad-brimmed black hat. It was quite a good drawing, very
realistic-looking, and it depicted the man as having a piercing
gaze that caused the hairs on the back of Inspector Flowers's
neck to rise.
a very interesting picture," she commented casually. "It's
rare to see a drawing these days. Was it done by hand?"
I did it myself," said Paula proudly. "Reverend Joshua
agreed to sit for it. It was a great honor for me."
it seemed that Paula was not completely talentless. Inspector
Flowers wondered why she hadn't gone into advertising.
you heard of Reverend Joshua?" asked Paula. Her eyes had
gained a fervent gleam.
but he sounds very interesting," said Inspector Flowers.
"What does he do?"
is the leader of the Church of the Resurrection," said Paula,
fixing Inspector Flowers with a piercing gaze that made the hairs
on the back of her neck rise once again.
said Inspector Flowers. "Are you a member?"
probationary member," said Paula proudly. "That was
why it was such an especial honor for me to be able to draw Reverend
Joshua. I have not yet shown my devotion to its fullest yet, but
I will soon. In order to become a full-fledged member, one must
forswear all material things and all usage of soulless technology,
as well as taking vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. Reverend
Joshua says it is technology that blocks our path to a higher
state, by separating us from our inner self. Once one has prepared
oneself sufficiently, one is allowed to join their retreat, where
one spends one's time meditating and readying oneself for an ascension
to a higher plane."
very interesting," said Inspector Flowers. "Do you know
where the retreat is?"
shook her head. "Its location must remain secret, so that
its residents' meditations will not be disturbed."
understandable," said Inspector Flowers. "Well, we won't
trouble you any longer."
luck finding Benjy," said Paula, and showed them the door.
they were back in the car, Ingrid said, "Do you think there's
any connection between this church and Benjy's disappearance?"
Church of the Resurrection is the only unusual thing we've come
across so far. I think it at least warrants some further investigation.
Let's go back to Central and see if they'll let us use a BI station
* * *
good-looking but stern-faced guards at Central were reluctant
to let them back into the BI room, but once Inspector Flowers
spoke with Captain Samuelson, and Captain Samuelson spoke with
someone important in one of the upper offices of Central, and
the someone important spoke with the guards, Ingrid and Inspector
Flowers were allowed to use one of the three empty stations in
the BI room.
again Ingrid applied the gel to her head and attached the BI cord
to her temple and began going through all the information on the
Church of the Resurrection. In half an hour she said she was finished,
and they left and drove back to their own station, where Ingrid
spent several minutes with a chip reader pressed against her head,
downloading all the data she'd gotten.
hooked the chip reader up to a screen, so that Inspector Flowers
could see what she'd found, and they went through it together,
eating a late lunch at the same time.
basically," said Inspector Flowers once they were done, "the
Church of the Resurrection appears to be some kind of a cult,
combining aspects of Christian and Buddhist philosophy with certain
elements of Reverend Joshua's own invention. Its members believe
that by meditating and avoiding technology, mindless physical
pleasure, and interaction with the outside world, they can access
their inner being and ascend to a higher plane. If they do this
enough times, they will become immortal, although whether this
is a physical immortality or a strictly spiritual one I still
sounds about right," said Ingrid.
also have a retreat in some unknown location. How can we not know
where this retreat is? Why are there no records of it? Are you
sure you checked all the databases?"
sure," said Ingrid.
can an organization have a location large enough to hold a hundred
or more people, and not have it appear on any of the databases?
That sort of thing shouldn't be possible. You'll have to check
said Ingrid. "And do you think we should look to see if there
are any missing-children reports connected with the Church?"
check for that too. I'll see if Captain Samuelson can get us more
time in the BI room, although why they guard it so closely I don't
know; it's not as if it seems to be heavily used."
said Ingrid. She rubbed her temples and her eyes with her left
hand. Inspector Flowers realized she looked drained.
the BI work tire you out?" she asked.
bit," Ingrid replied. "It can give you a headache if
you do it too much. But I'm fine, I really am, and this is important."
third trip to CentralInspector Flowers was beginning to
be very tired of the routeand a third round with the dragons
guarding the door gave Ingrid and Inspector Flowers a massive
collection of data on all the children that had gone missing in
their region in the past year. Unfortunately, it was difficult
to say how much of it was relevant. None of the children were
the offspring of known members of the Church of the Resurrection,
but, as Ingrid pointed out, that wasn't surprising: if the Church
really was kidnaping children, there was no need to go after the
children of its members, who presumably would render up their
progeny willingly. A more careful check of the information would
be necessary to find connections like the one between Benjy and
the end of the day it was reported that Benjy was officially not
in any of the local hospitals or the morgue, his body had not
been found after a thorough dragging of Crystal Pond, and a search
with bloodhounds through all the abandoned lots near Vine Street
had come up empty. Of course, as Inspector Flowers pointed out,
none of that explained how a four-year-old had gotten over a three-meter
fence, or, alternatively, had made it through two doors, one of
which was locked, and then moved so fast down the street that
after ten minutes he could no longer be found within a 15-block
radius of the daycare center. And why no one at the center had
noticed his escape. Inspector Flowers was also greatly puzzled
that they could find no trace of the Church of the Resurrection's
retreat. Not only had Paula talked about it, but it was mentioned
on the Church's official site, which strongly suggested that it
really did exist.
after suppertime they declared themselves at a dead end, and called
it a day.
* * *
the next morning, when Inspector Flowers was just beginning her
breakfast, her phonescreen made a melodic pinging noise, and Ingrid's
face appeared on it.
morning, Inspector, I hope I'm not calling too early," she
said anxiously. Her hair was perfectly coiffed, she already had
her makeup on for the day, and her upper body at least was dressed
in a pale pink suit. Once again, the thought "ice queen"
arose in Inspector Flowers's head. She, by contrast, was still
in her nightgown and hadn't brushed her hair yet.
at all, Ingrid," she said politely. "What are you calling
was thinking about the Church's retreat," Ingrid began, "and
I started to think: what if the Federation has no records of it
because it's not Here, but Elsewhere? If it were Elsewhere, then
the Federation would have no records on it, would it?"
very good point," said Inspector Flowers. "I'll speak
to Captain Samuelson about it. Meanwhile, I want you to continue
researching any connection between missing children and Church
members. If you don't see me at the station today, just carry
on as best you can. I'm sure the others will help you."
Flowers got dressed as quickly as possible, told her husband and
her children she didn't know when she'd be back, and left for
the station, eating toast as she went. She called Captain Samuelson
from her car and told him what was going on. Captain Samuelson
promised to connect with Central.
* * *
Federation controlled everywhere that was Here. A century earlier,
scientists had discovered Elsewhere, which, as its discoverers
liked to say, was simply the other side of Here. There was a better
explanation, but it involved multi-page math equations and theoretical
physics, so most people didn't bother with it.
one knew how much Elsewhere there was, but it appeared to be vast.
No one controlled Elsewhere, so anyone who wished to carve out
a slice of it was welcome to do so. In fact, the Federation encouraged
it, on the theory that if enough Federation citizens lived Elsewhere,
it would eventually be brought under Federation control without
the Federation actually having to exert any force. The Federation's
activities in Elsewhere had always been limited, and largely covert.
Inspector Flowers arrived at the station, Captain Samuelson was
waiting for her behind his desk. Standing next to him was a man
Inspector Flowers recognized instantly, even though she had not
seen him in ten years. He was lean, pale, and had short salt-and-pepper
hair. In many ways he was as unremarkable as Inspector Flowers.
Flowers," he said.
Whitaker," she said.
time no see," he said.
seem to have done well for yourself."
Samuelson here tells me that you've got a case that might have
a connection with your, ah, former activities."
says you suspect you have a group that kidnaps children and takes
checked up on the Church of the Resurrection," continued
Whitaker, "and I am able to confirm that they do have a facility
Elsewhere. In fact, I even have the exact coordinates."
will you give them to me?"
know, Flowers," said Whitaker, "I was very hurt when
you decided to leave the Corps. You were one of my best agents."
sorry," said Inspector Flowers. "But what's done is
take it I can't lure you back?"
seems very unlikely."
don't find your current work tedious?"
sighed. "Some of us would die of boredom, working out of
a desk and never leaving the city limits, Flowers," he remarked.
is where you and I differ," she replied.
perhaps you're better off where you are now, then," he said.
"The coordinates are loaded into this chip reader here. What
you do with them is up to you."
you," she said. Whitaker gave her a perfectly ordinary-looking
chip reader (in many ways it resembled an electric razor), nodded
once to her and once to Samuelson, and left.
former boss?" asked Samuelson.
answered Inspector Flowers.
do you really intend to go into Elsewhere to track these people
down?" he asked.
she said. "I'll need access to Central's Elsewhere facilities,
so if you could..."
arrange it," promised Samuelson. "When do you want to
don't need anything?"
will have all the equipment I need."
you're that sure about this?"
am," answered Inspector Flowers. "I have a hunch."
you never have hunches," objected Samuelson.
how I knew it must be an Elsewhere case: because I had a hunch,"
she explained. "I only get hunches when I'm working with
go collect whatever you need, and I'll call Central."
a very few minutes Captain Samuelson was driving them over to
you nervous?" he asked.
not really," she told him. "I've done this sort of thing
that was more than a decade ago," he pointed out. "You
were young and stupid, and you didn't have a husband and children
to worry about."
now I have all the more reason to come back," said Inspector
guards at Central treated her with a lot more respect than the
day before. A special escort came to lead her to the Elsewhere
rooms. She was given various communication and navigational devices,
and let into the Elsewhere chamber, which was roughly the size
of her clothes closet back home. The technicians asked her if
she was ready, she told them that she was, and they shut the door
* * *
Inspector Flowers had just been plain Annie Flowers, twenty years
old and with no particular direction or ambition, she had responded
to an ad for an employment test. It had promised paid training,
good benefits, and lots of interesting travel opportunities for
those who passed. Much to her surprise, Annie had passed all the
tests, which had mostly consisted of simulated emergency situations
and the occasional math problem, and had been offered a position
in what had turned out to be the Federation's semi-secret Elsewhere
more than five years Annie had spent most of her time in Elsewhere,
sometimes openly representing the Federation, sometimes not. Then
her father had gotten sick, and she had met Michael, and she no
longer wanted to spend all her time away from home, so she had
resigned and started working at the local Children's Department.
In many ways it was a very banal story, except for all those trips
to Elsewhere, which others were determined to invest with excitement.
now Inspector Flowers felt everything going black before her eyes,
like it always did when entering Elsewhere, and then all sensation
disappeared, and then she was standing on the grass of some alien
reality. And Inspector Flowers knew how they had taken Benjy.
* * *
took her the better part of two hours to work her way from the
drop point to the retreat. The Elsewhere the Church of the Resurrection
had chosen for its hideaway was a lush and verdant place, somewhat
damp, and for the moment at least, a pleasant medium temperature,
neither too hot nor too cold.
retreat was surrounded by a thick screen of bushes. Inspector
Flowers crouched under a bush and watched the compound for a while.
There was only one building. Various people came out of the compound
and strolled around or tended a large vegetable garden behind
the main building. They were all dressed in simple clothes that
two pleasant-faced women came out, leading a group of children.
Inspector Flowers counted ten of them. She guessed they were between
three and seven years old. One of them was Benjy. He did not look
particularly happy, but neither did he look like he had been abused.
Flowers considered what to do. The children were herded to a play
area beyond the vegetable garden, next to the bush screen. This
gave Inspector Flowers an idea.
cautiously, she began edging her way around the bushes to where
the children were playing. Their caretakers told them they should
all join in a game of hide-and-go-seek, but that they mustn't
go beyond the bushes or the building. This did not offer a lot
of hiding options to Inspector Flowers's eyes, and so she was
pleased but not surprised when Benjy hid under a bush.
silently made her way over to him. He only had time to give her
one startled glance before she snatched him up and, hugging him
tightly to her chest, she pressed her chip reader against the
chip in her wrist. Everything went black.
* * *
Inspector Flowers returned, she reported everything about the
compound to Whitaker. Two days later she was informed that all
members of the Church of the Resurrection had been arrested, and
the retreat had been shut downan unusually aggressive action
for the Federation in Elsewhere but one that was felt, he told
her, to be justified under the circumstances.
agree," she said.
the children have been returned to their families, unharmed,"
very glad to hear it."
seems the Church of the Resurrection has been grabbing children
for the past couple of years. Apparently they don't believe in
engaging in procreative activities themselves, but they needed
children, and for some strange reason adoption agencies wouldn't
give them the time of day."
did they need children?" asked Inspector Flowers.
to do with pure, unstained souls who would ascend to a higher
plane faster than corrupted adults, and then return to guide their
elders. There was a lot of talk about angels and Bodhisattvas.
They would target the children of friends or family members of
their new recruits. Sometimes they made snatching a child part
of the initiation requirements for becoming a full member, but
not, it seems, in Paula Andrews's case. It looks like she just
mentioned her cousin's child, and they did the rest. But I still
don't see how they grabbed him without anyone noticing, or how
they got him over that fence so fast."
solution occurred to me while I was snatching Benjy," said
Inspector Flowers. "Elsewhere technology has improved tremendously
in the past few years. You can, for example, open up a window
and pass objects back and forth between the two states. And correct
me if I'm wrong, but now with the right reading devices it's possible
to track someone between Elsewhere and Here."
so they tracked Benjy from Elsewhere," she explained, "and
at the right moment they opened up a very small window to Here
right next to him, reached through, and grabbed him. None of them
ever had to pass all the way through from Elsewhere to Here, so
they kept their disorientation to a minimum. And it would have
been very fastjust a matter of a second or twoand
very quiet. If they did it when the other children were distracted
with their game, the chances of being noticed were slim. And it
a little while, at least," said Whitaker. "But then
you found them. Are you sure you don't want to come work for me
sure," said Inspector Flowers. "But thanks for helping
don't ask me to do it too often," said Whitaker. "And
don't go spreading around tales of how you went to Elsewhere.
Tell them you found Benjy in a remote holding facility in the
desert, or something like that."
said Inspector Flowers.