I tell ya, after 37 years on the force, you think nothing can really surprise you anymore. You start getting comfortable in your desk chair, waiting for the next call to come in. Couple homicides before lunch. Enjoy a minestrone while catching up on the news for an hour. Maybe spend the afternoon working on a particularly gruesome double-murder. Finish up some paperwork, grab a Coke from the vending machine in the hall, and spend too long thinking about the marketing on the ride home. 400 years of great taste.
You know, you grow up as a kid thinking “Space Cop. That’s the job for me. Action, adventure, busty alien girls, and maybe at the end of the day you can do some good.” And, yeah, been a little action, some adventure. I’ve yet to find a busty alien girl willing to put out, but, I did a lot better than that already. What no one tells you about is the boredom. The hours doing paperwork and the politicians who try to use you like some sort of chess piece. You really gotta read the terms and agreements.
Last few years, they just stopped giving me the important shit anymore. They figured I don’t care, and I just about figure they’re right. So you can imagine my surprise when my phone rang and Terry handed me the Laura Zemonod case. Almost didn’t take it. Kinda wish I hadn’t.
“Course I heard of Laura Zemonod.”
“Calm down, Kim. Just jerking you around a bit.” Terry was the latest and youngest in the line of people who told me what to do for a living. Usually some off-planet dick who never even bothered to make it to this little back-water planet of ours. I’ve had 5 over the course of my career. Terry was alright.
“Thought she was killed?”
“You thought right, my man. Found dead in her bedroom this morning with a malfunctioning android stuck in the room.”
“Then what’dya need me for? Walking smartphone did it.”
Terry chuckled. A noise that never came through the speakers in my office right. Something always got distorted and made a scraping noise that ground my bones together.
“Yeah, probably, but the Governor asked for you personally. It’s kindof a big deal, politically, and they wanted someone with experience, to make it look good.”
“As, so the fine application of my personal skills”
“Something like that.”
“Alright, I’ll do it.”
“Good to hear you think you had a choice. The governor wants to talk to you before starting the investigation. He’ll be awaiting your arrival at 1500.”
“His ship, the Timahoe”
I nearly spit my coffee out. “That big interplanetary deal?”
“The very same.”
“That thing’s stationed on the other side of the globe, how’m I meant to get there in two hours?”
“They have a transporter jump booked for you at 1445.”
Gotta admit, that even got me to shut up for a few seconds. Now I don’t know where you’re reading this from, or when, for that matter. But on Terra 6 those babies are expensive. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve actually got to jump, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Most folk around here never get to jump in their lives.
I was still annoyed at being given a boring, high-profile case, but was too excited about the jump to care anymore. I got Terry to ping over the relevant files on the case, and spent the next few hours familiarizing myself with the case. Made a call to the coroner who’d received the body. He hadn’t finished the autopsy yet, but guessed at a cause of death. Then the mechanic who de-commissioned the android. Even put in a call to the witness who found the poor girl, a harpish woman who claimed to be a dear friend of “Ms. Laura’s” and talked too much in a fake drawl. By 1430 I had established a pretty clear timeline.
Laura Zemonod had been attending a small dinner party with the witness, Ms. Cynthia Tate, who made a clear point to bring up that “small” didn’t mean “quiet”. However, in an uncharacteristic fashion, Laura went to bed early, around 2230, complaining of a headache and wooziness. Her android Butler took her to bed to help her relax. In the morning, around 0830, Ms. Tate had gone into Laura’s room to wake her up for breakfast, when she found Laura dead. Half her body was lying on the ground, with her legs still in bed, wrapped in her own blanket. Coroner said it looked like her windpipe had been crushed by hands. She had been dead at least three hours before she was found. The android was across the room, walking repeatedly into the wall — and it continued to do so until manually deactivated. The tech that de-commissioned him said the inner program was a real mess. Not just buggy, but actively jumbled and jumbling itself. It could have gone haywire at any point in the night and killed its master, unaware of who she even was.
I glanced at my clock, 1437. Time to head. I closed the file and stuffed the little holo-drive in my pocket, before making the short trip to the jump station. It hadn’t been used in so long the girl working the console looked like she forgot what to do.
“Just try to make sure both my eyebrows make it this time.”
I waited on the pad with my eyes closed and my hands tucked behind me. Breath held as I waited for the tingling sensation of my body and soul dripping into thousands of tiny pieces, and ducking in and out of the folds in of the fabric of the universe.
Hello everyone! Today I was working on a high-concept idea that is, an idea that can be expressed (and in this case, started as) in a short, understandable way. For example, the idea for this story started as “Detective gets handed a case he’s not expected to solve.” and I tried to bring all those story elements through in the first two pages. Everything else proceeded from that sentence.
High concept is something that’s talked about a lot in film and tv writing, mainly because films and shows need to be pitched and talked about in short, understandable bites. But it’s an important exercise because shortening your story in that way forces you to understand it on a deeper level, so that you can explain it to people in a way that they can understand.
Did you notice my concept coming through? Did you think it didn’t come across in the first two pages. What’d you think of the story on its own?
Let me know in the comments 🙂