the ladder - synapse city (part 3)

The Ladder – An experimental web-only fiction series that spans multiple story lines and characters…Tune in every Wednesday for a new installment.

Headquarters; in a derelict industrial park of broken-down verses, rhymes of questionable character, and few residents save for sour-faced workers and visiting truckers. Parked on the street, The Slicer would stand out like a polished gem in gravel. But a quick turn into a small warehouse - off an alleyway and wedged between a shoe polish factory and a shoe - and navigation through carefully arranged shipping containers makes standing out a moot issue. The Engine drives inside a container deep in the maze; hydraulics lower the floor, car and all, to a basement wonderland of technology.

Parking the Slicer in a cradle of battery chargers and computer diagnostics, the Trio emerges from the vehicle grateful to stretch their legs. Through the biometric security door in a heavy steel and glass wall, into the main space divided into key functions: research and library, command and control, armory and equipment, living quarters. It’s retro sci-fi wood, cold steel and glass, but everything is precisely designed and engineered, functional and comfortable. The Engine heads for the armory for the post-mission ritual of checking, recharging, reloading, storing and, if necessary, repairing equipment. The Effect heads for C&C’s rows of monitors, radios, and computers orderly laid out in a semi-circle. The Equation walks to a semi-translucent blue cube standing on its corner atop a sleek steel cabinet of blinking lights and controls that straddles C&C and the research section. This is DELPHI: quantum hypercomputer and non-sentient artificial intelligence.

“Decryption is complete, Doctor,” Delphi says, synthetic voice rich and androgynous.

The Equation smiles, a fish in the water of book stacks, computer terminals, and a pedestal on top of which is a translucent dome surrounded by an array of touch-screen controls. “Best display for the results.”

A three-dimensional image forms in the dome; lines of different thickness and colours, dots both fat and tiny. The display coalesces into a web of connections. Manipulating the controls, the Equation discovers the data set associated with the dots: six digits grouped in threes.

“Nothing on the police scanner,” the Effect says. Gone is the sexy red number; in its place is a comfortable pair of faded black jeans and a white t-shirt strategically emblazoned with the Superman S. “A few muggings, some domestic disturbances, nothing major. Looks like Boss Marcone isn’t making a fuss for his pal.”

“It’s a bit of an embarrassment,” the Equation says with divided attention. “The Police Commissioner doesn’t appreciate trifles.” He frowns.

“What is it?

Still frowning, the Equation makes adjustments, moving dots and lines around the display. “Delphi: confirm origin point.”

“Origin confirmed. Synapse City marked at coordinates zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. Recenter display?”


The dots and lines move in a wild frenzy until settling with a large glowing red dot marked “Synapse City (0,0,0,0,0,0)” at the center of the holographic display. Leaning over for a closer look, the Effect studies the beautiful construct.

“Hey, what is that thing?” booms the Engine, joining the Equation and Effect in the research section.

“An information map,” says the Effect. “Right?”

“Yes.” The Equation manipulates the display one more time, zooming in on the Synapse City dot. “Delphi: any other information encoded on the disc?”


“Can you cross-reference map data with last known locations of Dr. Lumen?”

“Negative. Insufficient information.”

The Engine with an exasperated look on his face: “So, Doc. The trail’s cold?”

“No,” the Equation says. “I think I know what Dr. Lumen was up to, more or less. And that, I believe, can lead us to him.”

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