by Jeff C. Carter
“Go ahead, I’ll show you how it’s done,” Grady said.
Enforcer Barney Keepagami slipped on the Medical Examiner’s electronic goggles. A perfect replica of a pale dead man floated in front of him. Hovering next to the cadaver’s no-nonsense buzz cut was a name and occupation: Kyupiti Brantry, customs officer. His brutish frame and rough hands clashed with his fashionable clothes and expensive bug shell jewelry. Barney’s old detective training jumped to the conclusion that the customs officer had been taking bribes. He dismissed the thought and watched Grady work.
“Thanks to the deep scan we’re free to do a virtual autopsy any time we want,” Grady said.
“Back in my day they used arthroscopic threads,” Barney said.
“Yeah, and in the dark ages they cut cadavers open and pulled everything out,” Grady said with a shiver of disgust. “Can you imagine? Thank God for deep radiation scanning. Every detail gets captured while the entire body is sterilized. But here’s the best part…”
The corpse grew larger until it filled Barney’s view like a foreign landscape.
“Let’s take a look inside,” Grady said.
Everything tilted and the surface of the dead man rushed up to meet them. Barney tensed as they smashed through the outer layer of fabric and skin. They flew through a tangled forest of muscles and arteries towards a pulsing red horizon.
“The red lights are areas that the computer has flagged as outside the healthy base line,” Grady said.
They coasted through the abdominal wall and passed under the broad sweeping arches of the rib cage. “Arteries aren’t in bad shape for his age. So where’s the red light coming from?” Grady wondered.
The heart swelled to the size of a house while the red lights shrank down to glaring pin points. No matter how far they zoomed in the red lights always slipped into the distance. Finally, they skidded to a halt inside a grey patchwork of spheres pierced with glowing red lines.
“Incredible. The injury is at the cellular level,” Grady gasped.
“Have you ever seen this before?” Barney asked.
“Once. Micrometeor damage. It happens to meteor cowboys sometimes. It’s a bad way to go. I’m ruling this death by trauma,” Grady said.
Barney pulled off the goggles and looked around the morgue. He imagined the room stacked full of bodies after the bloody riot. If there were any clues to glean from the inmate’s cadavers, they would be on these scans.
“Now, about your missing doctors. What are their names?”
“Doctors Thaani Lev and Samuel Loomis. They disappeared around the time of the riot. Actually, I’d like to review all the scans from that period,” Barney said.
“Think they were lost in the shuffle? I’ll pull up the whole batch.”
A long list of names rolled up onto the screen, but the doctors were not among them.
“Let me dive deeper. Could be they were filed as Jon Avenirs.” A garbled list appeared on the screen and Grady hissed. “Dammit! The files have been corrupted.”
Barney gave a low sigh of disappointment that held little surprise. When would people learn that information was too important to entrust to machines? The first thing he had learned on the job was that you could only trust hard evidence.
Barney glared at the computer screen and the fragmented list of the dead. So many lives lost, so many questions without answers. “Did you perform these autopsies?”
“No. But I remember who did,” Grady said.
Barney’s eyebrows perked up with renewed hope.
“His name was Dr. Kes. Said he was with the ZMB.”
Barney rolled onto the balls of his feet, ready to go. “Where is he now? Can I speak with him?”
“He was just passing through. The Peace Council brought him in to help process bodies while I was at the crime scene. It’s possible he didn’t know our system, or just made a mistake. We were completely swamped.”
“I suppose I’ll have to add him to my list of missing doctors,” Barney sighed. “Where are the actual bodies now?”
“If you’re lucky they might be in the disposal bay, waiting for next of kin,” Grady said.
Barney nodded and handed back the goggles. “I suppose I’ll go pay my respects.”