It was a cloudy day in the city of New London, September 2046. I was getting back from my job as a courier for the city, delivering packages and such to the local shops and factories. I had been working on my motorbike a lot because I used it for that job. It was hard work fixing it up but it got me places faster and was worth all the extra labor. On that particular day, I finished early so I decided to stop off at my favorite café, Dempsey’s. I had just parked my motorbike and sat down when Dempsey himself called out to me from behind the counter, “Hey Cass! It’s the old man for you!”
The “old man” was my mentor. I had recently begun serving as an apprentice to the well known Professor Ian Cromwell, a greatly sought after detective. I took the phone and heard his familiar deep and brooding voice. He told me that he had just been informed of a case right here in New London but he was needed elsewhere on another important case and that he just couldn’t give it up.
“I’m leaving this up to you,” he said. “This is your opportunity to prove your knowledge of what I have taught you. Good luck and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I trust you Cassie.”
I replied with an uneasy, “I promise Mr. Cromwell, I won’t let you down.” He could hear the tension in my voice as I hung up.
I had only been under his wing for a few months and it was the first time I’d be working a case alone. I was quite apprehensive at first but I was determined to follow through with the investigation. Professor Cromwell had told me to go to the Investigation Bureau at New Scotland Yard. The Captain would fill me in on the particulars of the situation.
Once I got there, I was met by an important looking man followed by what looked like his assistant.
“Hello I’m Captain Henry Williams”, he revealed. “I’m guessing that you are the Miss Rutherford that Cromwell mentioned. Your professor told me you were coming. Are you up for the task of investigating a suspicious death?”
“Nice to meet you Captain Williams”, I replied as I shook his hand. “Yes, I’m Cassie Rutherford, Mr. Cromwell’s assistant. I think I’m very capable of investigating the case and I’m looking forward to starting.”
He then started to give me the details of the case. He said it was a suspicious death of an engineer working in the City’s Power Plant. Normally the plant ran like clockwork. Nineteenth century steam technology had almost been perfected in the 21st century. However, a worker had suffered a gruesome death.
“The victim was crushed and lacerated by a faulty component attached to one of the steam turbines,” he explained. “The work area is quite dangerous right now. You should take a look at where the tragedy took place. See what else you can find out about the victim. I don’t have the staff to look into this with all the government auditors crawling about the department. All my detectives are pulling old case files and getting interviewed. If you need a hand, I’ll be available by radio.”
Capt. Williams handed me a mobile radio that barely fit in my backpack. The vacuum tubes in the device took up much more space than integrated circuitry. But that technology hadn’t been around for twenty years.
I arrived at the New London Central Power Plant, put on my Kevlar gloves, and started looking around. The dynamos were huge and very powerful. These steam powered dynamos were used to power the lights, heat and serve as the primary energy source for the whole city. Nuclear war had destroyed all electronic devices by a massive electro-magnetic pulse. The residents were left on their own to survive and thrive on what they could find. They had rebuilt most of the city using the power of steam. The city was reborn as “New London.” An inoperative power generating steam dynamo would cause serious problems for the city and more deaths could result.
As I looked around the area, I decided to check out the dynamo that caused the victim’s death. I wanted to see what could’ve gone wrong. As I looked closer, I noticed some strange markings on the machinery, but nothing was truly broken. I noticed that the pin from the cam arm that drove the piston was missing. It appeared that a unique and powerful tool was used to remove it leaving marks on the surface of the cam arm. With my mechanical knowledge, I came to the conclusion that the machine was tampered with and the death of victim was caused by deliberate sabotage. I decided to keep my assessment to myself until I could figure out why someone might want the poor worker dead.
The “Benefactors”, our government, were alarmed to hear about the incident. Mr. Hugh Silsbury, the Minister of Technology, insisted on being advised of the progress of my investigation. He had a reputation as an overbearing, demanding, autocrat. He was bound to a wheelchair as a result of the nuclear war. He later became the Minister of Technology and had a high position in the city as one of the “Benefactors”. He climbed high in power and took control of the government technology department.
As I continued investigating the crime scene, Mr. Silsbury burst onto the plant floor with his entourage to see what was becoming of the investigation.
“Miss Rutherford, you understand I am the Minister of Technology, therefore it is my responsibility to oversee the power production and technology of our city. We must have the engine stabilized at all costs!” he demanded.
He then ordered me to report back to him every hour with any new information I discovered in the case. I politely nodded in agreement and continued my search as he went back to his office. I took a few pictures of the markings and where the pin was removed and headed back to my office to wait for the autopsy results.
The victim was identified as Sid Lancaster, a twenty six year old engineer. “I examined the body and found Mr. Lancaster had a deep head wound and many broken bones”, said the pathologist. “This was caused by an extremely forceful blow and killed him immediately. This man died almost forty- eight hours ago.”
“Today was a scheduled ‘gray-out’,” I stated. “Only a few dynamos were active to provide power to essential services. Staffing was minimal at the plant – only a few techs in the plant’s control center. I suspect that no one was on the power plant floor at his time of death. That means the breakdown must have occurred after their last shift was over yesterday. He would’ve been the last to leave after he checked the machines. He must have been killed around that time and wasn’t discovered till last night when I was called.”
I decided to go back to the scene with the information discovered from the autopsy. I obtained a list of Mr. Lancaster’s co-workers from the plant supervisor. I spoke with the men who worked with the plant machinery, including the dynamos, and they gave me more information on Lancaster. They told me that he was the senior mechanics engineer. He was the one who checked all the machines and equipment before going home. He was always the first one in and the last one out. No one knew more about the city’s energy production than Lancaster.
I returned to the plant floor area where Lancaster was killed. As I walked in, I saw a man solemnly standing by the front entrance. I started to tell him that this was a dangerous crime scene and that he should leave but he interrupted me.
“I just heard of Sid’s death. I was out of town and came as soon as possible. I was very close to Sid,” he explained. “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Sid’s older brother, Charles Lancaster.”
It then made sense as to why he was there. I gave him my condolences and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions about Sid. He agreed to do anything to help further the investigation.
I took Charles to Dempsey’s and we sat down with a cup of hot tea. “Do you know why anyone would want to kill your brother, Mr. Lancaster?”
“Murder? Sid’s death wasn’t an accident?” he exclaimed. He paused for a moment and stared into his cup. “Sid and I were very close. He told me a lot. He said he’d been secretly looking into something about the electricity and the government.” “Did he ever mention what he thought was happening?” I inquired.
“Oh, um... Yes. As matter of fact, he said that he suspected the government was hiding the use of high tech and electronic devices.”
“Can you think of who would actually kill him?” I asked.
“Hmm. Well before I went out of town, I went to visit him at work. I saw him in a heated argument with a man.” Charles explained.
“Can you give a description of the man? Do you remember anything significant about him?” I asked.
“It was a bit hard to see him but he was sitting in what looked like a wheelchair. He was wearing a suit and glasses. I’m sorry, but that’s all I remember.”
“Oh no Mr. Lancaster, don’t worry. You gave me plenty of extremely necessary and helpful information.” I insisted. After that, I answered any questions that he inquired about and thanked him for meeting with me and giving me such important information. I assured Charles that I’d get back to him as soon as possible.
I had a good idea of exactly who it was. It was time to question Silsbury. I hopped on my motorbike and sped over to Silsbury’s office. No one was there. I crept inside and looked around for anything suspicious. As I looked, something peculiar caught my eye. I saw that he had a massive book case that was almost six feet tall. It was filled with books as a normal book case would be but there were books on the very top shelf. How do you suppose a man trapped in a wheelchair would reach those books? I walked around to his desk and saw a bunch of electrical cords by the outlets. Why would this man need so many outlets in a government office? I think Sid was right about the government hiding their use of high tech… Just as I was in the middle of my thought, I heard the familiar skid of a wheelchair coming toward me. As the sound came closer, I quickly hid in a small place behind a small couch as he entered. Silsbury wheeled into his office and shut the door at once. He took a remote from a drawer of his desk and scooted himself to the bookshelf. He pressed a few buttons on the remote, which seemed to open up the bookcase. It was a secret entrance. He went into the secret room as I quietly slipped in behind him. I followed him into what looked like a lab. I carefully hid behind some objects so I could observe Silsbury.
The lab was filled with many electronic experiments; wires, devices, machines, and lights. Mr. Silsbury opened up a closet revealing some sort of device. Before I could identify it, Silsbury pulled himself up against the device which seemed to come to life. Wires, hinges, pulleys and steel tubes surrounded his body. He then walked away from the closet – walked! The device was some type of electronic power suit – the type of technology that had not even been seen before the war. The suit was absolutely remarkable.
I realized that the government had been concealing high technology. If they didn’t help Silsbury make it they at least supported him in doing it. The “Benefactors” kept this information hidden from the people. I wondered how long they had known and used this new technology. It could help our city become stable and stop the power struggle. With this information being exposed it would start a rebellion and the government would be taken over by the citizens. That is why Silsbury had to eliminate Lancaster. He knew too much and they were afraid of this information being leaked. It would take away the minister’s power and he just couldn’t have that.
I tried to sneak out of the hidden lab and alert Captain Williams via radio. Silsbury suddenly whirled around, his eyes wide in a look of rage. “You! You’re too clever for your own good!”
I picked up what looked like a circuit board and threw it at him. It got me a head start so I ran as fast as I could out of the offices, jumped on my motorbike, and hit the gas hard. I thought I had an advantage until I saw Silsbury on my tail in his suit. This suit had greatly enhanced his speed, strength, and agility. He pursued me as I made sharp turns and rode through traffic. I had to think of a plan to stop him fast. His suit was electronic. I used that to my advantage. I led him to a blind corner and made a sharp turn. He followed me around the corner to find himself in an irrigation canal. His suit came into contact with the water and it short circuited. This sent electricity surging through his body as he collapsed to the ground.
I parked my bike on the side road and took a moment to catch my breath. I quickly contacted the Captain on my radio and told him to come without delay. I didn’t have time to explain everything that happened. I didn’t feel safe until Hugh Silsbury was locked up.
The Captain came promptly to my location and found Silsbury quivering in a mass of electronic gear. I told Captain Williams everything I had found out about the case and how it was more serious than anticipated. It was actually a murder. I revealed that I met with the victim’s brother and learned about Sid’s connection with Mr. Silsbury. I informed him of what I found in Mr. Silsbury’s office and details on the suit that Silsbury had created with hidden technology. Silsbury had used this technologically enhanced suit to sabotage the dynamo causing Lancaster’s horrific death.
The Captain sent some of his men to further investigate Silsbury’s secret lab. They subsequently linked numerous “Benefactors” to the techno-conspiracy as it had come to be known. Silsbury was eventually found guilty of the murder of Sid Lancaster. He was sentenced to death by electrocution.
I met with Charles Lancaster weeks later at Dempsey’s. He was very grateful that I solved the case and found Sid’s killer. He told me that he felt better knowing that justice was served and that Silsbury paid for what he did. He thanked me greatly and stated that he owed me so if I needed anything that he would be happy to help. I appreciated that he was so eager to repay me but I was just doing my job. I was glad that I followed through with the case and brought a corrupt leader to justice.
I got up from the table and finished the last swallow of tea. Dempsey thrust the phone at me and said, “Guess who?”
Professor Cromwell’s familiar deep voice was on the line. He had heard of my work in solving the case while finishing up his work in New Munich. “Nice work, Cassie. I’ve got another one for you….”