Breath in. Breath out.
Palani sits cross legged on the floor of his room, stripped to the waist and hands folded on his lap. The wear and tear of time is painted over his skin, tan surfaces marred by many puckered scars and burns. Knotted muscles flex as he focuses his attention on every strand of sinew that runs through his body. Sweat beads on his forehead.
Breath in. Breath out.
An internal clock measured his pulse at 95. Not high enough to be exercise, but certainly more than resting. He opens his eyes and allows his vision to slowly expand, to clear away the mists of an early morning. Three more minutes before showering.
The scent of roasted coffee filled the small space of Palani's room. The place was very close to the GBI building and his own office, but was usually rented by students at the nearby college (most of them hoping to be accepted into GBI training).
The blank walls of the apartment always appealed to Palani. Whitewashed and bare of frivolous posters or pictures. He didn't have any photos worth hanging anyway.
Many at the office thought it odd for a grown man to live in a 2 room apartment when he made enough to afford a house, but the landlady wasn't complaining. Palani himself hadn't owned a house since his divorce 5 years ago.
The last one he lived in he had rushed out of with hastily packed bags and heavy steps...his unfocused eyes clouded over briefly with visions of an overcast sky and the drone of a far away radio reporter saying, "There's a high to-day of 87..."
Then his eyes snap back into focus. The little knot of concentration at the base of his skull came together again. Get dry, go to work. Figure out the problem at hand first.
"Eve was the second sentient robot. Preceded, naturally, by Adam. Her 'function,' to be blunt, was to bear children. To prove that even a robot can bear and nurture life."
Palani stands in front of his group of new assistants, briefing them on each of the victims so far. He was down to Eve now and it seems most of them were on the verge of being physically sick.
"We can clearly see a pattern emerging here. There is a new victim roughly every month. Each victim is a high profile or highly advanced robot. The murderer is taking a part of each victim. There are also no traces of DNA, no traces of blood, nothing showing in the residue memories of the robots murdered. That is all that we have to go on. Any questions?"
After a reasonable pause, Palani turned and shut off the all too realistic holo-projections. As if in relief, the collective body stood up to leave. One man stayed behind, waiting patiently and pointedly for everyone else to leave.
Palani grinned. "Len, you must be slipping for me to brief you on cases."
The older, more rotund man shook his head ruefully. "I've been teaching here for longer than you've been on the force. No, I need to talk to you." Palani instantly sobered. He'd learned to respect his instructor, both during the GBI course and on the force. The last time Len talked like this with Palani had saved Palani's life. "Sure, let's go get lunch."
A few minutes later, both of them with a wrapped sandwich, the two were sitting in an open air park. Len mumbled under his breath while chewing, "Is this place clean?"
Palani considered it. He did his laundry himself, no chances for someone to bug him. The park is public property, with so many benches and hiding spots that even the intelligence bots of the GBI couldn't cover it all. They sat on an old bench on the top of a slight hill, with 360 degree visibility. "Unless you're wired, it's clean."
"I'm not. I wore this just in case." A slip of the coat revealed a small chrome disc affixed to the back of Len's jacket. Palani nodded, that type of jammer would fill any recording device nearby with random static. Suspicious, perhaps, but not uncommon.
"What do we need to talk about?"
Len finished chewing before answering. "You should know already. You should've known since you saw your assistants."
Palani nodded. "Not one of them older than 28. Not one with field experience. On a case that needs lots of both. Someone doesn't want me to have too easy a time."
"Not just that." Len finished eating and crumpled the wrapper, "Not one person even tried to intervene. My efforts to get you more personnel has been met with dead silence. Whatever this is, it's bigger than just a prejudiced killer. Watch for enemies on the inside."
Len stood up and walked away, leaving Palani behind to consider his words. A killer on the outside, enemies on the inside. He mused while turning his half eaten sandwich over and over.
Suddenly he wasn't hungry anymore.