A Note from the Author: This is my first Cowboy Bebop fic, so constructive criticism (particularly with regard to series accuracy) is welcomed. Please be gentle, and enjoy! Takes place around a month after the series' end, so beware that there are spoilers.
Chapter 1: Crime Scene Concertino
The Mordechai Estate, Mars
He always made time for a story - Dee had to give him that.
Everett Mordechai, his wife Teresa, and his ten year-old daughter Edie had gathered by the fireplace in his study, which overlooked the extensive back garden through a plain floor-to-ceiling window. Under the shroud of newly-fallen twilight the expensive imported plants and the expensive lounge furniture were merely shades of deep emerald lacquer presided over by yet more expensive climate-control pylons that every so often sprayed a fine mist or glowed red to provide heat. This window being immediately opposite Dee, she had had much time to memorize everything outside of it ever since she was moved into the study around a year ago.
She'd also had time to memorize everything between her and the window - the walls of built-in shelves of books she was fairly certain were not real and the glass display cases of antique scientific equipment she was fairly certain was real; the expensive ornate carpets; the expensive furniture. The cognac leather-topped desk was in front of her with its matching chair, its draw-up monitors and keyboard lowered for the night and its drawers locked. For such an expensive set the chair still squeaked every time he would turn around to face her and the ominous sound echoed around her memory bank, unable to be filed away.
'Expensive'... Everett liked things to be expensive. Everything he owned, and liked to portray. "Good taste is necessary for success" was something he liked to say. Dee suspected he also liked for his wife and only child to feel as though time with him was a precious commodity, too. She wouldn't be surprised if she saw Everett more than they did.
'Precious commodity'... He'd called her that once, on the occasion of moving her from the front foyer to this more private room. That's when she'd detected what kind of man Everett Mordechai was, and it had grown ever-clearer to her with every squeak of his chair, every immersion with her he undertook and the growing fantasies he'd asked her for, every questionable late-night visitor and every curious thing she'd seen over his shoulder, handed over to those aliased visitors - more than that, every doctor's appointment and birthday he missed.
She returned her unblinking gaze to them: Madame Teresa reclined on her chaise with her two blankets and the clear tube running discreetly from her nose out of sight behind her to the humming apparatus that helped her breathe; Edie sitting on the thick rug with her mother's hand trailing softly through her hair and her arms wrapped snugly around a large china doll; Everett himself reclined on the floor on his side, facing them, turning the page of the huge storybook Edie had brought in with her. The three of them were a handsome family - inky black hair that shone in the firelight and tumbled over their shoulders, coppery skin, noble bearing - which made it easier for an outlier to think them happy. Dee knew that storytime only existed because Madame Teresa and Edie came here, to this room, to make him happy.
'Orpheus and Eurydice' had been Edie's favorite for a week or so now. When Dee had asked her about it yesterday, she'd got the impression that it was an old one and that Edie liked it because the part about the journey to the underworld frightened her. Dee could not understand fear itself much less why a child would like to be frightened, but accepted it. She herself had grown to like the tale, as it allowed her a different sort of glimpse into human nature. Life inside Everett's study was quite limited for a piece of art like her.
"...Orpheus began to climb the stair to the upper world," Everett was saying. He was using his gifts for oration to good effect, Dee noted - Edie was rapt, her blue eyes wide, and even Madame Teresa looked more alert than usual. "His footsteps echoed around him: thump, thump, thump." He patted a hand on the rug for effect.
Movement in the dark garden beyond the window caught Dee's attention. Everett detested all wildlife that wasn't dead on his floor or wall and she wondered if the protective fence had malfunctioned again. She watched. The movement came again, too tall for an animal and too big for a bird.
"Thump, thump, th -"
Gunfire from at least five sources sparked in the garden and destroyed the great window; it pummeled into the floor and the furniture, and the display cases exploded and disgorged their fragile contents. Several bullets passed through Dee and dotted the plain paneled wall behind her. Edie was screaming; Madame Teresa was already dead on her satin pillows with goosedown floating down to settle on her hair. As black-clothed figures began to materialize out of the foliage, Dee watched Everett make a run for the hidden door next to the fireplace and though he received a shot in the arm, he disappeared through it. For the first time in her artificial life Dee felt panic at the sight of the door closing before Edie could reach it - she pounded on it only once before running to Dee.
Though she knew her arms could never embrace her, Dee knelt and held them out nonetheless.
"Dee!" Edie was sobbing.
The child was cut down by a line of bullets and collapsed at the edge of Dee's platform; the panic she felt was replaced by outrage and sorrow. She could not reach her, only watch as blood bloomed on the pink nightgown and wish she could bleed, too.
There were a dozen masked figures in the study, now. Half of them were exiting the room with further gunfire and shouts of the staff, another two were attaching explosives to the hidden door, two more were raiding the shelves and the furniture as though searching for something, while the final two came to Everett's desk and tried to break it open.
Almost like an afterthought, one of them turned to Dee. "Hey, a Deco-Install," he said.
"Not what we're here for," said the other.
"No but they're worth a lot." He looked around her frame, found her memorydrive and yanked hard.
Tybalt Hoss & Associates: Acquisitions, Auctioneers, and Replicas; Mars
(The next morning)
"Thanks, Samantha," Gideon said and traded a note and some change for the coffee and pastry she held out to him.
"Your turn next Friday!" she chimed as she went on her way to her desk at the other end of the open-plan Programming office, which was largely vacant on account of the rest of the five-strong team being off, working from home, or coming in late.
The antique grandfather clock by the elevator chimed 8AM; Mr Hoss had grown tired of its slightly dissonant noise and had consequently 'gifted' it to the Programming department under the guise of 'a reward for good work'. It'd barely been down here on the fifth floor a week and already the team was tired of it. As soon as its chime stopped Gideon felt his mind clear again, and he settled back into his chair to read the news over his breakfast while Samantha started to prep for their latest digitization project - a hefty acquisition in the form of what they were sure was a genuine Earth replica of Rodin's L'Eternelle Idole that now sat on the imaging mat in front of the row of programmer desks. He heard her muttering about Jolier not moving the packaging from yesterday out of the way and smirked.
Normally Gideon went straight to The Red Herald's arts and culture section, as the rest tended to either frustrate, bore or panic him, but the name 'Mordechai' on the front page and the images of bloodstained carpets caught his attention. He expanded the window on his monitor and sipped his coffee before reading aloud, "Pharmaceutical Tycoon Missing: Mordechai Estate Raided and Family Murdered."
"Wow - the entire family?" Samantha called. "Didn't he have a kid?"
Gideon skimmed the article. "Seems that way. The wife was terminally ill, too."
"I know Mordechai himself was supposed to be a bit of a crook, but that's awful. Who did it? Do they know?"
"Not yet, though apparently 'speculations about his involvement with the erstwhile Red Dragon Syndicate are gaining traction'. Maybe gang-related, then," he said, "particularly if Mordechai's missing rather than dead."
Samantha stretched. "You know what this means, don't you? We can expect Mr Hoss to send the Vulture Department over there ahead of the formal estate auction to see if there's anything worth acquiring," she groaned. "I hate that. It's so insensitive."
"Part of working for a twenty-first-century art dealer contracted by a company like Fontbleu," he grumbled. He clicked a few more times on the scroll for the article. "Looks like the place was cleaned out pretty good, though. Might not be anything left." He nibbled at his pastry for a minute or two as he read more thoroughly despite himself. He then recalled why the Mordechai name stood out for him particular. "Hey, I just remembered - a couple of years back I did the programming for a DV:IAI for Mordechai. Model...6, I think," he said. He tucked the article away and sat forward, beginning to look in his files. Sure enough, the date matched his memory.
"I'm surprised you forgot," Samantha said as she pulled on a pair of white cloth gloves and began brushing down the Rodin with a soft brush. "You put in so much overtime on that one. Ottosen and I thought we'd have to stage an intervention or get ordained to marry you to it, one or the other."
Gideon held up a free hand and gave her a loose grin, "It was a lot of work, all right? They guy wanted twelve pieces - twelve. Including two sculptures. Those took eighty percent of the work by themselves - any time there's a Bernini that you have to animate and program into the immersion interface you may as well kiss your weekends goodbye for the next two months if you want to do it right."
He ignored her skeptical tone. "Anyway, the Model 6 was expensive. I wonder if they took her, too."
"Oh, shut up." He scanned through the news article again, but didn't find any mention of the DV:IAI6, not that he expected it to. There weren't many other news items on the Mordechai Estate raid yet, either. He finished his coffee and pastry, and after pulling on his own pair of gloves he began to help Samantha with the Rodin.
Happily, the first stages of digitization work were second-nature to him by now, even with sculpture, so his mind being distracted wasn't too much of a problem. As they worked one by one the various pieces of art that Mordechai had selected for the Model 6 came back to Gideon - pieces he'd seen before countless times over the course of his six-year career with TH & Associates and programmed several times in various installations - but somehow it had been different with the Model 6.
The time spent, he told himself. That was all. And the bonus check helped.
(Late that night)
You are so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Gideon told himself as he snuck past the pair of security guards and under the yellow tape surrounding the broken-open back gate of the Mordechai Estate. His heart was thundering in his ears.
He slipped down the side of the house and down into a basement courtyard of sorts, and entered through what he guessed was the kitchen. He'd only been to the mansion once to oversee installation of the Model 6 and thus, it took him some time to carefully make his way back to the front foyer. Gideon cursed when the Model 6 wasn't there, and though his first thought was to give up and retreat he quickly rationalized that the entire frame and platform that the installation normally connected to was gone - meaning it must have been moved since.
Gideon took longer than he thought he'd allow himself to search the likely locations - halls, formal dining room, music room - until he at last came upon the study, which had been blocked off with additional tape and hover-markers for key crime analysis. This room had more debris and bullet holes than anywhere else in the house, and even in the dim light he could see the blood on the floor. Common sense kept him behind the tape at the doorway, but he nonetheless managed to spot the gilded eight-by-six empty frame hanging behind the desk, which had been ripped asunder and overturned onto the six-by-five platform attached to the bottom of the frame. With the angles and the bad light, however, he could not tell if the Model 6's memorydrive was still attached to the far side of the frame.
He hesitated, and then stepped under the tape. Still stupid, he repeated to himself as he skirted the edge of the room toward the frame. His foot nudged a crumbled china planter and he nearly tripped over the houseplant that'd been toppled. He sighed with relief when he reached the frame, though it took further awkward angling and stretched strides to get around the ruins of the desk without slipping on any of the scattered papers.
Sure enough, the memorydrive was gone - ripped out without proper disconnection, from the looks of things.
That's going to be a bitch to fix, he thought, which was immediately followed with, Wait. You're talking like you're going to find her. Get a hold of yourself, Chung. Your morbid curiosity is satisfied now go home.
Gideon precariously made his way back out the way he'd come and was amazed to find that the cops were still in the same spot he'd left them in. Once he felt he was a safe distance away he sprinted to his hovercar, cursing himself all the way. The long drive home was filled with similar sentiments of: It's just a program. Just twelve replicas that didn't even belong to you. You're not a criminal - what the fuck did you think you were doing breaking into a crimescene? What if there were cameras? There probably were. Kiss your career goodbye. Fuck…
By the time he was feverishly trying to get to sleep, however, he was tormented by a vision of Bouguereau's Aphrodite as much as paranoia.