Thatch hustled across a rooftop. He was panicked, figuring that anything was better than hiding and waiting for the inquisitors to catch him. Worse yet, he shuddered to consider what would become of him if the King found him first. The hook nose woman had told him about a place to hide. He knew it existed, but he did not know the address until now. Thatch wiped the sweat from his tanned brow and took a deep breath. He proceeded to cough and sputter from the smog. The gravel and cracked cement under his feet urged him onward. The man vaulted his body over the ledge and dropped onto a set of metal ridges. The metal sections cascaded down toward the street, thousands of feet below. His stomach lurched at the thought of tumbling to his death. However, it would be a much less painful end than he might meet at the hands of the ginger-headed drug lord that ran the neighborhood’s underground. A little out of breath, Thatch paused and leaned against the building. Shortly after, he pressed on with a leap and a jog. The criminal made his way to a large, industrial building on the outskirts of town. It would take a while on foot. Thatch sighed relief when he spotted an entrance to the underground train station that for once, was not extremely crowded. At this time of night and with his location in the city, it made sense. Thatch made his way down to street level and ducked into the station. Once inside, he was greeted by a crowd that was thinning. The people seemed half-asleep; even the old woman behind the ticket booth looked like she was dozing off in her chair.
Wide-eyed, Thatch approached her, “Hey, I need a temporary card.”
The woman blinked, “Really? Alright, how much do you want to put on it?”
Thatch withdrew from his pocket enough bits to get him across town and slid it over the counter.
“1, 2, tens and a…” the woman adjusted her spectacles as she counted up the amount.
“Alright, leave your Hancock there,” the elder gestured to the scanner panel on the side.
Thatch nodded and quickly pressed his hand onto the panel. It beeped and the light flashed. The machine on the other side of the booth whirred and popped out a card.
In her somewhat nasally voice, the woman offered him the card, “Have a safe journey, Mr. Thatch.”
He nodded, taking the small plastic card from her, “Thanks, goodnight.”
Thatch tapped the card on a scanner and the gate yielded to him. The metal clicked and folded as he passed by what was a barrier, joining the crowd on the opposite side. The train created small sparks, grinding to a halt with a screech. With the doors sliding open, Thatch proceeded to board the transport with everyone else. The train soon took off, zipping along the track toward the west side of the city…
Meanwhile, Ovvy was typing away at his desk, sipping some coffee he had freshly brewed in the other room. He was startled by a notification on his computer, but not surprised to see it. He nearly choked on his beverage, setting down the mug and whipping out his electronic communicator.
Tapping at the screen with his sausage fingers, he huffed and called Murchadh.
“Buddy, I got your guy!” the hacker exclaimed.
“Really? That is great, Ovvy! Where is he?”
“He just boarded the underground, C21 westbound,” Ovvy relayed the information.
Murchadh smiled, quite pleased with the development, “Thanks, Ovvy. See you later.”
“Oh my god, you actually found him?! I am going to tell Central, let’s get him-” Qinyang eagerly began to type on her communicator, but it was snatched from her hands.
Murchadh clutched it and coolly proclaimed, “It is a personal tip, not government information.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Qinyang furrowed her brow.
“You don’t tell anybody about that call. Ever. Understood, you two?” Murchadh glanced between Irene and Qinyang.
Irene nodded immediately, but the young inquisitor gasped, her jaw gently dropping in frustrated shock.
“I cannot believe this, did you just- Did you just break the law?!” Qinyang looked up at him in disbelief, shaking her head emphatically.
“To find Thatch.” He mumbled and handed back the communicator.
“But- You broke the law!” Qinyang cried.
“Things are not that simple, rookie.” Murchadh shook his head.
“You… bastard.” Qinyang started to slowly back away, “You were a dirty inquisitor this whole time!”
Irene looked over at Qinyang, taking the statement literally, “Relatively speaking, he looks clean.”
Qinyang glared at the android and clenched her teeth, “Shut up.”
Murchadh moved closer to Qinyang, attempting to calm her down. However, she shied away from his touch.
“Don’t touch me, villain.” She spat, jumping back.
“Hey now, you need to understand something about being an inquisitor,” Murchadh glared at her.
Qinyang grabbed her gun and was about to draw it when Murchadh drew his even faster.
“Don’t get any ideas, rookie. This is not the time to play hero.” He tilted his head forward, his piercing gaze burrowing into Qinyang’s soul as the barrel of his gun pointed at her face.
Qinyang let her weapon fall back into her holster and slowly raised her arms in surrender. Murchadh slipped his handgun back onto his hip.
“Calm yourself down, we can discuss this after we catch Thatch.” He declared.
“You are going to turn yourself in, to the bureau and the Chief? You just wanted to sacrifice your badge to catch this guy? Is he really worth it?” the young inquisitor probed.
“Sure, kid.” Murchadh offered her an unenthusiastic lie.
After an awkward silence, Murchadh pressed on, leading the other two to the underground train station nearby. The crowd’s eyes trained on Irene from time to time, as she stumbled behind Murchadh occasionally. She was underdressed compared to the general public, which drew their attention. Irene was unaware of the public gaze that fell upon her. She was fixated on the back of Murchadh’s head, content to simply follow the investigator indefinitely. Suddenly, Murchadh veered away from Qinyang in the crowd.
“I need to get Irene a card for her to ride along,” he called out to Qinyang, who sighed in an exasperated tone, tapping her card to get on the platform.
Irene followed Murchadh eagerly but was surprised when they were suddenly no longer in the underground station. The inquisitor swaggered down the street, creating distance between himself and the junior inquisitor back at the station. He made his way into a skyscraper and led Irene to the train station high above ground level.
“Where are we going, Sir?” Irene blinked.
“We won’t catch him in the underground. We have to cut him off,” Murchadh explained his reasoning.
Eventually, the two were sitting in a compartment on the train suspended precariously above the city. It zoomed down the curved rails, and wind slid over the windows with great force. Murchadh sat down in the compartment, expecting Irene to sit across from him. However, she settled down at his side, looking straight at him. The awkward silence made Murchadh somewhat uneasy. Eventually, he lightly unzipped the jacket he had placed on Irene. He reached his gloved hand inside and she wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“Uh… what are you doing?” he blinked, watching Irene clamber onto him.
She had no answer, but witnessed his hand withdraw the smokes and his lighter from the jacket pocket before zipping the coat back up.
“I forgot to take these out,” he mentioned, popping a cigarette into his mouth.
Irene sat up and tilted her head, a little confused by the man’s behavior. She was unaccustomed to his mannerisms. So, she watched him intently, curious as to his motives. Murchadh flicked the lighter with his gloved thumb and cupped his hands as he lit up. The soft glow of the smoking stick mesmerized Irene, who had never seen anything like it.
“What is that?” she pointed, blinking her glowing green eyes at him slowly.
Murchadh looked at her sideways and was about to speak, when he was interrupted by his communicator.
“Where are you, asshole!?” It was Qinyang.
“None of your business,” he replied.
“It totally is!” she protested.
“Nope,” he dismissed Qinyang, exhaling smoke through his nose.
“You are a criminal, just like Thatch! You are running away too, aren’t you!?” Qinyang exclaimed.
“Nope,” Murchadh leaned back as the train carried him to his destination.
“I am going to bring you in right after I catch Thatch!” she spat angrily.
“Sure thing. Good luck with that,” Murchadh ended the call and put the communicator back in his pocket.
Turning slowly to face Irene, he inhaled some more smoke, “Sorry we had to meet again on such a bad night…”
Irene nodded and was surprised by his next words: “What are you going to do come morning?”
“Morning,” Irene repeated.
“Yeah, when the sun comes up,” he continued, “After I kill these pricks and straighten things out with the Chief.”
He exhaled a billowy puff of smoke.
Irene tilted her head, “Kill? I recall the goal of the investigation being to catch them.”
Murchadh shrugged, “It costs less money to pay some poor sap to mop up the mess than to feed the bastards for however many years they got left.”
Irene was unsure what to make of this.
Murchadh repeated his question, “What do you want to do after the night is over?”
Irene closed her eyes. Her only happy memory, at least, she thought it was a memory, was of the beach.
“I want to go to the sea.”
“Why the hell would you want to go there?” Murchadh raised an eyebrow.
“I went to the sea once. It was beautiful,” she explained.
“Beautiful?” the inquisitor chuckled to himself, shaking his head, “Irene, I don’t know what sea you went to, but clearly, it was very different from the place I know.”
“You do not like to watch the sun set on the horizon of the big blue ocean?” Irene questioned.
Murchadh’s brow furrowed, “A blue ocean? You mean like the one from a hundred years ago? You weren’t around back then, doll.”
“One hundred years ago?” Irene blinked in confusion.
“Yeah, I have never seen a real blue ocean… You have?” Murchadh tilted his head.
Irene nodded profusely, “Yes, Sir.”
Murchadh laughed, “I did not know that androids could lie…”
“I am not capable of lying, unless you told me to do so,” Irene declared, in monotone.
“Huh...” Murchadh pursed his lips and smoke flowed out as he pondered the discussion.
Far away, Qinyang was fuming alone.
“That no good, double-crossing, dirty-dealing criminal of an inquisitor!” Qinyang clenched her communicator as her face flushed red with rage.
She kicked at the ground in fury, barely holding in a violent scream. Stomping out of the station, the naive young woman called the Chief.
“I have a major problem!” She growled.
Chief Coral sighed deeply, “What exactly are you calling me directly for?”
“It is Murchadh! The bastard is a criminal just like the rest!”
“Slow down, what are you talking about?” The Chief grumbled, barely intrigued enough to listen to such accusations.
“He ran off to go get Thatch and left me behind at the train station!” Qinyang was fuming.
“That isn’t illegal, honey, it sounds like you are just having trouble keeping up with him.”
“No, no, he found Thatch using illegal methods!” Qinyang tried to explain better.
“What illegal methods?”
“Well-” Qinyang paused, looking up at the smog overhead, gently drifting along, “I mean, I don’t know exactly how, but he said not to tell you!”
“So let me get this straight,” Chief Coral began, “Your senior officer gave you a direct order to not inform me of something and here you are… wasting my precious time?”
“B-but ma’am, he broke the rules…” Qinyang blinked, quieting down.
“Honey, we all break the rules. You know what Murchadh doesn’t do? Kill people. That is more than can be said for most of the inquisitors,” Coral shook her head, “You need to get some perspective through your head young lady, or you might as well leave the service right now.”
“What?” The disillusioned young inquisitor gulped and blinked.
“Inquisitor Han, you act like you don’t know the man at all…” Chief Coral glared at the screen, visibly disappointed in Qinyang.
Straightening her uniform and badge nervously, she thought for a moment. She was completely unaware that she would receive this kind of response from the Chief. She swallowed hard as her mind went blank.
“Now, if you are quite through with wasting my time, either get your ass back to Central or go do your job and give your partner some assistance,” Chief Coral declared, “The man already lost one partner on the force tonight, he certainly doesn’t deserve to lose two.”
Qinyang’s eyes went wide. The communication device turned off, but she stared at the blank screen for a minute. Sliding the electronic machine into her pocket and zipping the opening closed, the young inquisitor took a deep breath of smog and coughed.