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Right As Rane
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and an old sock. He considered selecting coffee, but the probability of having to wash a
warm brown sticky mess from the walls decided him against it.
Ceras finished his meal and tossed tray and cutlery into the bin in the corner which, with a
small whoosh, reduced the items to their component parts and shuffled them off to the
building’s recycling unit. He rose from the chair and, having stowed both it and the table back
from whence they came, turned towards the door.
"Open," he said, and walked out into the passage. The door hissed shut behind him as if
glad to be rid of him. "Yea, and sssss to you too," he snarled.
Ceras’ current lodging was in a standard city residential block of 15,360 rooms divided
over its 128 floors, thirty of which were below ground level. Around a fifth were family units,
another fifth for couples and the remainder for singles like himself. As he entered the corridor
it was seven a.m. and it seemed the entire population of the building was on its way to work.
The mass of bodies jammed into the corridor took on a life of its own, gelling into a single
shuffling centipede-like creature which issued grunts and curses as people tried to break in
or out of the main body.
After a few minutes of rapid shuffling, Ceras saw the overhead display for Parking A rea 9
and managed to squeeze close to the edge of the stream as they approached the curved
steel filter channels. With a heave he popped free of the organism and was carried by his
own momentum into one of the individual padded lift cubicles where he stabbed a button
marked G. The lift door closed, carried him upwards so quickly he hardly had time to hear
the musak, then stopped so abruptly his feet actually left the floor momentarily.
The door slid open, allowing Ceras to enter the parking garage. He passed just two vehicles
on the way to his cruiser, both nondescript dark blue models designated for government
personnel. Given there were something in the region of twenty thousand people in the block,
you might have expected more, but these days people walked as much as possible to keep
up their required cardio-vascular exercise minimums or, if they were going any distance, took
the extensive and efficient Free Access Rapid Transit network. The only ones with private
vehicles were government officials (for protection should citizens wish to express their
displeasure at the latest health and safety regulations), or law enforcement (who might need
greater speed in getting to their destination, or want to transport people or materials
Ceras checked the wall-mounted charger, unplugged the car from the mains, got in and
turned on the heads-up display.
"Location of individual," he demanded curtly, "Joseph Andles." The screen filled with color,
different areas flashing up briefly as the computer performed a rapid search for the person in
question. After a few seconds a single grid emerged with a small red glow pulsating softly in
the centre. A coffee shop in Mall 12.
"Go," Ceras commanded, and the cruiser slid silently away from its bay. Often he liked to
drive manually but he had things to think about today. He slid back in the seat and carefully
re-checked each stage of his plan.
He'd been struggling to justify what he was going to do for several weeks, not just because
carrying it out threatened his future as a Ranger if he was caught but because it meant over-
stepping personal boundaries as well. He believed in the law, in the right of all sentient
beings to have a fair hearing. The more he thought about it though, the more he realized he
had little choice. Something had to be done about the one -man crime-wave that was Joe
Andles and the system had failed time after time. Ceras might be the only person on the
planet who could stop him.
It had all started a little over a year ago. Two local police officers had caught Andles running
out of an electrical goods store clutching the latest Apple iWatchPodPhone. The store owner