UNITED STATES—Detective Zorba was very proud of himself. He submitted the audio to produce a visual analysis and, showing great self control, wrested himself away from the cold case from the lost hinterland of “up there.” He had some real work to do for Robbins. He’d visit the scene of a robbery in midtown, at a smoke shop/payday business where the manager had been bound by intruder at closing time. And the intruder walked off with the most valuable thing, a stash of “pills.”

With all its technology and enlightenment, the Underground Cities had long ago dispensed with cash. And where the payday came into play in the smoke shop/payday establishment was people could cash in their work card, or a credit thereof, and get one of the coveted ‘pills.’ This was the street name for miniaturized binary converters that could be purposed to do almost anything your heart desired. They were subcutaneously implanted and they could be dialed to treat ice cream addiction or magically erase the guilt one felt for cheating on their spouse.

Getting to interview the shaken manager, who’d been robbed a hearty selection of ‘pills,’ served as a distraction from his growing obsession with the Wilcox case.

“He tied me up with these after tricking me,” said the rabitty manager. “It was closing time. I was locking up and this guy came to the door and said, ‘Your girlfriend was run over’. This guy must have been watching me for a long time because Gloria –that’s my girlfriend—always met me at closing time. And this guy said, ‘She’s been run over across the street.’ I opened the door to go out and the guy came in a pushed me over.”

The manager then introduced her.

“I always come around this time,” said the mousy woman with lavender eyes. “But tonight because the Metro took a detour. I couldn’t get off at my stop on time.”

Zorba was dealing with two people suffering different degrees of shock. The ‘pill’ robbery and its aftermath provided pleasant distraction from Zorba’s burning desire to get the visuals from the audio sample. Sometimes he got too caught up in these symbolic cases from “up there” and thought he’d be a good candidate to get a pill to control his antsy anxiety when a virtually meaningless abandoned case captured all his imagination.

But he preferred natural living; it behooved his concentration. In a plastic sleeve, he carried one piece of evidence, old phone cable that the perp had used to bind the hapless manager’s ankles and wrists behind his back, who was left with the threat not to call the police, “Or my buddies in the Midtown gang will get back to you.”

Finally, back in the privacy of his own car—a perk the detective shared with the oligarchs in the Underground City—he could surrender for his total urge to get the results of the audio sample. Three clicks of the tongue, and the screen was brought up on the passenger corner of the car. Then he got a call from his wife: it was his daughter’s birthday and he better get candles on the way home. Darn. Now the screen was asking for a passcode. It was the easiest thing in the world, but it didn’t dance off of his fingertips—a sure sign that detective Devon Zorba was getting overloaded.

Maybe he did not that ultimate chill pill, after all. But he sure wouldn’t want to end up like those subcutaneous pill junkies. You’d clap them on the back of their neck and there’d be a cluster of ‘pills’ like a nest of pebbles.

To be continued. . .