Wurth got the call at the tail end of a long Friday afternoon. He’d spent the last hour pretending to review a closed file while he watched the clock and decided which bar to visit on the way home, and he’d just gotten up to put on his coat when his partner emerged from the captain’s office.

“Hey, Wurth. Cap’n said to see him before you clock out.”

“For fuck’s sake, Cos! You couldn’t wait ’til I was out the door?”

Cos shrugged.

“What, is he running for the boss’ job? We gotta call him AG Pym now?”

“You should go,” she said. And that was all. Seniority had its privileges: Wurth never missed an opportunity to complain, and Cos learned to pick her battles. She didn’t often object, but he didn’t cross her when she did.

Pym was an old-fashioned cop who affected neckties and French tobacco, but he was otherwise a decent enough boss. Wurth found him leaned back in his office chair, smoking a Gitanes and looking down at something in the palm of his hand.

“Wurth,” he said, looking up without apparent enthusiasm. “I need your badge and your gun.”

“I need to call my union rep?” He wondered if this had something to do with the Kang interview earlier in the day—but Pym wouldn’t have sent him if he hadn’t wanted the man’s cage rattled. The interview had been unproductive, anyway. Cos had already filed a report.

Pym shook his head and beckoned with his free hand. Wurth unholstered the hardware and set it down on Pym’s desk, a little harder than necessary, but the captain didn’t appear to notice. He swept the badge and Wurth’s service revolver into a drawer.

“I needed to collect those, so I could give you this.” He looked down at his hand again, drew on the Gitanes and exhaled a plume of blue smoke. “I’ve been riding this desk close to thirty years. Never seen one of these before.”

He set the thing down on his littered work surface—a jewelry box of glossy gray cardstock—and pushed it across at Wurth, disrupting stacks of paperwork and empty foam coffee cups. Something nested inside on a bed of sculpted polystyrene. A badge, Wurth realized. A shield embossed with a pattern of broken lines and dots representing an idealized circuit diagram. He picked it up, surprised by its heft—a solid hunk of pewter-colored metal with a nacreous sheen that gave off rainbow glints as he turned it over in his hand.

He set the thing back down, carefully. He’d heard stories of cops getting the call up, of course, but it was always someone’s cousin’s friend, never anyone from your own unit. It was a kind of comforting urban legend, like winning the lottery.

“This came with it…” Pym was still talking. He laid a snub-nosed Steiner Optics laser pistol down beside the badge, its molded plastic grips glistening black and poisonous. An amber telltale in the receiver winked at him: The gun was still factory-sealed, ready to be coded to his biometric signature. The weapon was military surplus, derived from industrial cutters, miniaturized down to handheld size and able to defeat any personal protective gear on the market, to say nothing of car doors and light-armored vehicles. He had handled one once before, during his SWAT cross-training module.

“It’s all provisional, of course,” said Pym. He creaked back in his chair. “You’ll have a whole year to wash out and get your old desk back.”

Wurth shook his head. “Provisional” meant specialized training, crash courses in international law and weekend leave on expense account at the finest resorts the Swiss Alps had to offer. The Turing Police Force was not constrained by municipal budgets, or even national ones—they were funded by a consortium of the world’s developed states. Answering to no single government, but empowered by the agreement of all, they were almost above the law.

“Just don’t forget us little people at Christmastime, eh? Change the narrative. Now get outta here.” Pym made a shooing motion and spun his chair around so that his back was turned.

Wurth picked up the badge and the pistol and didn’t look back.

# # #

Their day had started like any other in a long, gray series that stretched back for years. Wurth had a decade on the street; Cos had half that, but between the two of them, they’d busted every hustle known to civilization. Mankind’s appetite for prurience and altered states being what it was, a vice cop never lacked for overtime.

A sudden rainstorm had come pissing down and they’d ducked for cover under a food truck’s collapsible awning to wait it out, sipping foam thimbles of a thick Ethiopian brew like mud. Cos was busily scrolling through a document on her handheld.

“You have that address?” Wurth took another sip of his coffee, grimaced, threw the cup at the trash can next to the concession window.

“Mm-hmm.” Cos didn’t take her eyes off the screen.

“Call us a ride, will you? I think this is starting to let up.”

This time she rolled her eyes, sighed, murmured into the little skin-toned mike adhered to her throat. As the junior partner, she was most often tasked with the minutiae of their daily lives.

Their rideshare arrived a moment later. It was one of the new ones, a nearly featureless teardrop of gleaming smart-metal.

“A real car should have a windshield,” grumbled Wurth.

The car’s door cycled open; its interior offered a bench seat and smelled of industrial air fresheners layered over the stale scent of an old locker room. Wurth motioned Cos to go ahead and sat down next to her. The seat cushion embraced him tentatively, extending pseudopodia about his waist and shoulders.

“And real seatbelts!”

Cos gave him a look. “It’s the future, boss.” The rideshare eased away from the curb and accelerated. Its electric motor ran nearly silent on broadcast power, to Wurth’s mind sounding more like some kind of minor kitchen appliance than a car. Internal combustion was nearly extinct, litigated out of relevance a decade ago.

Cos had put her handheld away, stared forward at the scratched polycarbonate shield protecting the car’s display screen. It was on mute, silently looping an ad for the latest model sexbot. Wurth leaned forward, the seat’s protective tentacles moving with him, and switched it off.

“So, what do we know about this guy?”

Cos closed her eyes, like she was reading notes off a display behind her eyelids—in her contacts, maybe. Wurth had heard that was coming, too.

“Trevor Kang. He’s well-connected. Pym wants us to push him on the donations he’s been getting lately. Big ones.”

Wurth shrugged against the seat cushion’s grasp. “Sounds like busywork.”

“Busywork,” repeated Cos. “You remember what happened the last time you thought something was busywork—?”

He did remember. Disciplinary hearings were like that. So maybe the word had come down from on high…

He sighed. “Fine. I’m on my best behavior. But let’s have lunch first, huh? You feel like sushi?”

# # #

Cos did not feel like sushi. They stopped instead at another food truck that served curry and rice noodles. The rain had stopped, though the cracks in the crazed asphalt streets still exhaled little plumes of steam. They ate their lunch at one of the folding tables in the lee of the truck. Cos used chopsticks expertly. Wurth ate with a plastic fork and washed away the aftertaste of the coffee with a Tsingtao.

“Little early, isn’t it?” Cos looked at him sidewise.

Before he could answer they were interrupted by another street vendor, a man in a stained lab coat that had not been white for a very long time. He grinned at them expectantly, plopped a clear plastic baggie down on the tabletop. Two fish circled the cloudy water inside, blinking blue neon.

“Bioluminescent, see?” The vendor fished a grimy business card out of his pocket and set it down on the table next to the baggie:

Dr. Murrow, Veterinarian

Genetic Tailoring & Custom Upgrades

“I do all kinds of pet upgrades. Vocal grafts—”

“That right?” said Wurth. He grinned at Cos. “You gotta cat at home you wanna talk to?”

Cos showed the vet her badge and he ducked and mumbled, swept the fish back into his pocket and hurried away.

Cos shook her head. “The Feds are still trying to get a handle on CRISPR. I heard they’re going to fund a whole new department. They need to.”

“Everyone’s a mad scientist.” Wurth shrugged and took another swig of the Tsingtao.


After lunch they took another ride to the subject’s address, in a far more upscale section of town. Here the pace of commerce was more sedate, the customers fewer and well-heeled. The address was on the top floor of a midrise office building, near the back. They stepped out of the elevator well into a lobby lined with brass and honed marble, from there into a small formal garden spanned by a walkway of what looked like wooden planks, but probably weren’t.

A girl in a printed kimono and a broad-brimmed straw hat was combing a little plot of black volcanic gravel with a wooden rake. She looked up at Wurth as he passed, and he caught a glimpse of startled brown eyes in an oval face. He guessed she was no more than eighteen.

“Nice-looking girl,” said Cos. She was looking sidewise at him again. “Best behavior, remember?”

“What? You’re getting paranoid in your maturity, you know that?”

Reception was a closet-sized room with an ergonomic standing desk and two chairs in sand-colored suede and stainless steel. Cos went to flash her badge at the receptionist, a tiny Malay girl in a black pantsuit and cravat; with his partner looming over her, she looked doll-like, small as the little groom on a wedding cake. The girl smiled and bobbed her head at Cos and disappeared through the door behind the desk.

Wurth pulled out one of the chairs for Cos and settled into the other with a grunt of surprise. It seemed to fit him perfectly—to his relief, without resort to smart materials.

“Hey, we need furniture like this back at the ready room—”

There was a framed wall-hanging behind the reception desk, and he paused to read the English printing in parentheses below the vertical stripe of Nihongo characters:

Walk with a real man one hundred yards and he’ll tell you at least seven lies.”


He was about to ask Cos what she thought it meant when the receptionist reappeared, still smiling. “Mr. Kang will see you now.”

She ushered them into a conference room that mirrored the reception area: minimalist in its design, opulent in its substance. A great slab of polished teak dominated the room, surrounded by more of the stainless steel and suede chairs. Kang was already seated at the head of the table, a trim man in a tailored gray business suit and a white shirt without a tie. He had a mane of black hair, just going silver, and Asian features.

“Inspectors Wurth and Cos,” he said. He flashed a brief smile, showing well-kept teeth. “Welcome! I am Kang.”

Wurth stared at him. He could not guess the man’s age; he might have been anywhere from forty to sixty.

“Korean,” said Kang, “by way of the Golden Gate.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You were wondering what kind of name is Kang. It’s Korean, although my family has lived in the Bay Area for several generations. But doubtless your partner already knew that.”

Wurth shook his head. “Well, if it makes any difference, I’m an old-fashioned Anglo. And Cos here is—”

“Spanish and Dutch, if I’m not mistaken. When I became aware that you would be paying me a visit, I had dossiers prepared for both of you. I do my homework just as you do, Inspector.”

“Became aware—?” said Wurth.

The door opened, and the girl in the kimono entered, carrying a tray with a steaming flask and three petite china cups like something from a doll’s tea service. She set the cups out on squares of jade-green ceramic and poured.

“Your health,” said Kang. He sipped from his demitasse.

Wurth was watching the girl leave when Cos dug an elbow into his ribs. Wurth turned to look directly at Kang and said: “She’s a nice-looking girl. One of the perks of being a guru to the rich and famous?”

He saw then something like anger flash in the depths of Kang’s dark eyes and was obscurely pleased to have needled him. But the expression passed as quickly as it had come.

“She comes from an old Japanese family. One of the last of the samurai families, in fact. She is my personal secretary…and bodyguard.”

“Bodyguard,” repeated Wurth. “How old is she? Eighteen? Twenty?”

“This suite does contain a training hall. Perhaps you would care to try a fall or two? See how the department’s self-defense course fares against traditional jujitsu?”

“Smith & Wesson—” said Wurth, and then stopped, conscious of Cos’ fingers digging into his arm.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kang,” she said. “My partner is—”

“Well-known for his outspoken demeanor. Yes, I know this, also. It is the reason he has not been promoted further, despite his ability.” Kang waved his hand, dismissing the matter. “But I did not bring you here to discuss my employees or to teach you the martial arts, as interesting as that might be—”

“Just a minute,” said Wurth.

“Please, try the tea. It is a really excellent blend.”

Cos’ grip on his arm had progressed to the white-knuckled stage, and Wurth shrugged and gulped down the cup. It tasted like tea to him. Better than the Ethiopian brew they’d had that morning, at least.

Kang smiled as if he were very pleased. “Now we can talk,” he said.

“I think you are confused about something, Mr. Kang. You didn’t bring us here. And I’ll be the one asking the questions.”

“I apologize that I must correct you. But it is really of no consequence how the three of us came to this place. We are all here now. That is what is important. Now, to business—you must have some knowledge of the Turing Mandate?”

Wurth stared at him. Kang’s eyes seemed to have become very large, dominating his face. Dominating everything in the room, in fact…

With a great effort, Wurth turned his head. Cos was sitting quietly, one hand still on the china teacup. Her chin was resting on her chest, and her eyes were closed. For some reason, this did not concern him.

“Inspector Wurth,” said Kang. Wurth turned back to look at him. He could see now that Kang’s suit had been recently pressed, and that his shirt was of very fine-spun cotton, with a high thread count and buttons of hand-carved mother-of-pearl…

“The Turing Mandate?” prompted Kang.

“Some high-tech Swiss outfit that babysits AI’s. Keeps ’em from getting too smart.”

“Multi-national,” said Kang. “But you are essentially correct. We live in a world of rapidly advancing technology, Detective Wurth. Too rapidly for any one government, no matter how able, to control or even understand. We are at a critical juncture in our history. The new techniques in gene-editing—CRISPR; the ubiquity of broadcast power; and AI…the confluence of these technologies has the potential to upset the order of our existence.”

“Preaching to the choir,” said Wurth. His tongue felt thick.

“Indeed. What I have to say should not really surprise you, because you already know it. You are an intelligent man, and an able investigator. Your skills are wasted as a simple detective.”

“Tell that to Captain Pym.” Wurth smiled dreamily.

“What stands in the way of all this? I will tell you something else you already know. It is the Turing Mandate, and their enforcement arm—the one organization in the world that has the resources and authority to act as a brake on these technologies, allowing us to direct their development—”

“Veto power,” said Wurth. “Like the Senate. Only bigger.”

Kang’s huge eyes looked momentarily surprised, but the expression passed as quickly as his anger had, earlier. “Indeed. A global stage. You see clearly what is at stake. And that brings me to the reason for your presence here. A man with your abilities—and, frankly, your contempt for authority, a natural catalyst—that is the kind of man we need within the Mandate.”

The eyes grew bigger and yet bigger, until Wurth could see nothing else.

Garick Cooke is a hobbyist writer of speculative fiction, working as a construction estimator during the day. He is a California native, but a long-time resident of Houston, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Houston. In 2021, his first published story, “Moon-Eye,” appeared in Issue 12 of the e-zine Zooscape. (“Moon-Eye”can be read for free on the Zooscape website, or on the Stupefying Stories website, where its sequel also appears.) Since then, he has had stories accepted to a variety of genre publications, including ANVIL: Iron Age Magazine #4Horror Library Vols. 7 & 8, and Go West: Frontier Tales. In 2023, his story “Winter Offerings” was a finalist for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award.