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Mishiida Alexander

Stalking Shadows

“Adaptation is always the art practised by those that survive.”

Chapter One: Rising tides

There are two ways to parasitize: one is to live until you kill the host, the other is to survive on one forever but keep spreading out to another. Malaria is of the first kind, for doesn’t matter whether the parasite will get transmitted from the afflicted to another, but it sure will kill the host if left untreated, and perish alongside. Lice are from the second kind, for they won’t kill the affected, but will spread to another through shared linen and contact. Every parasite can be bracketed into one or the other category, except human beings. Human beings are parasites that live like the first kind, when they should have evolved into the second kind a long time back.

If world is the only suitable home for humanity, the essence of human activity should be to live in harmony with nature, in an unobtrusive way. Exploiting resources unabatedly will alter the structure and nature of the environment beyond recovery. When molten earth was cooling down, everything sank down to occupy different depths depending upon their weights and densities. For ages humans have been digging up the earth to pull the same elements out and on to the lighter surface, leaving gaping holes below and added weight above. The differential distribution of world population means the dispersal of these minerals and their derivatives will always be even more imbalanced. Then there are oil and gas; the ones that have been pumped out for over a century now. Science tells us how liquids cover a lot more space than solids, and also give a hydraulic strength to the structures around them. Pulling them out leaves structures vulnerable to collapse. Having pulled the heavy weights out and put them on top of a surface fast hollowing underneath means the risk of homes capitulating into oblivion has multiplied. The real picture is not given by looking at the surface of the individual crime spots, but at the complete picture of the globe with all its’ perforations. Then add to it the fact that not only the abuse of resources have poisoned the characteristic of the atmosphere that surrounds the earth, but it has also added bulk to it in the form of gases added by burning what had been buried under humanity’s feet. The pressure of these gases might not be enough on their own, but together with other factors it is putting pressure on the surface all life dwells upon. How long before it capitulates?

The need always was to ration the resources while humanity developed its’ science to exploit other extra-terrestrial places for minerals. A solid undamaged earth would have withstood all the added weight without capitulating, and still been a stable home for all life. Human beings however will keep destroying their only home until it ultimately capitulates and annihilates them alongside. They are well aware of their limitation; their science is not capable of an escape yet. They are well aware of the consequences their actions bear; they will destroy their environmental, ecological and geological balance. They are well aware of the truth; you don’t dig a hole under your feet so deep that you can’t get out of it anymore. They are well aware of the future; they are doomed on current stretch. And they know; together they can work to lengthen the survival of their planet, and also develop the technology to find a new home. Yet they blindly follow their greed and passions, destroying any voice of truth, knowledge and foresight that ever rises to try and wake them up. Who will save humanity? Possibly none! And we as fourth witnesses will have to painfully watch the catastrophe unfold. Adaptation is the art that helps survival across catastrophes, and humanity is yet to master it.

Is it weird that we are having so depressing thoughts about the future as we fly across this ocean to catch up with Colonel Rick Roxon? Maybe it is, but hey, we don’t have dingy small screens to watch senseless flicks in our flight time. Instead we cherish the views of the dolphins frolicking in their blue haven as we make our way to the Royal Australian Air Force base in Edinburg. It’s time to stalk our friends again, if only we can find one. Oh, there is one; Lieutenant Charles, busy chatting on his phone. Looks an official call, for he is standing in attention. Lets’ eavesdrop!

“Yes sir, Ken’s body I can confirm was moved to the Royal Adelaide hospital this morning for post-mortem,” Charles replies to the query from the other end, which we guess is from Rick. He continues, “Sir I have just informed the doctor on duty there that you are on your way to inspect the body. He will be ready with the report and waiting for you in the mortuary.”

So Royal Adelaide Hospital will have to be our next stop. But as we fly, look at the vast difference in the speed of redevelopment of the destroyed army cantonment and the civilian areas. Discipline makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Well, maybe we should just concentrate on our work instead, for it won’t take us longer than a flash before we will be inside the chilling white confines of the mortuary, in a room lined with deep freezers, home to countless unclaimed bodies, or bodies awaiting official transfer to the next of the kin alive.

“Good morning Colonel,” the doctor exclaims as he greets Rick just as we arrive at the scene.

“Good almost afternoon Doctor! How are your findings,” Rick gets straight to the business.

“Intriguing! The only time I see such a contrast in injuries and circumstances, it is generally a case of murder,” the Doctor replies.

“What makes you say that,” Rick asks as he takes the report folder from the Doctor’s extended hands. We follow them inside the room.

“Let me show you what I mean,” Doctor says as he motions his attendant to unzip the body bag and reveal the corpse. Rick walks around to the opposite side as doctor points to a deep trauma mark on Ken’s chest, “The death was caused by that heavy injury you see. I found the sternum smashed, both lungs punctured by broken ribs, and dorsal aorta disconnected, all leading to internal bleeding. Not only did the young Lieutenant drown in his own fluids, but his death must have been due to lack of oxygen reaching his brain, hampering and then stopping the vital functions of his body. In addition, the fractures found in one of his legs and forearms were ante-mortem, as they were triangular and had irregular edges. The rest of the injuries to skeletal tissue were post mortem, with either shattered bony tissue, or straight cut edges.”

“Now if you could translate the gibberish into English please,” Rick exclaims as he inspects the injury mark to Ken’s chest, then his gaze pauses on Ken’s smashed but calm face for a moment. He takes a deep breath and then looks on at the doctor.

“The fractures to his limbs happened before the wall collapsed on him, and not because of the wall collapsing on him,” the doctor explains, “Yes the death was caused by an injury to the chest caused by severe blunt trauma like what could be experienced when a massive wall collapses on a person. But it shouldn’t have happened the way it happened to your Lieutenant.”

“And why is that?” Rick asks.

“Well Colonel, overlooking the question as to what caused the fractures in the leg and forearm, even with those fractures hampering a person’s movement, what would your reaction be if a wall collapses on to you?” the Doctor asks his question in response.

“I will possibly turn around if I get any time,” Rick replies.

“Your first reaction will be to raise your able arm to cover your face and head, and roll in towards your stomach and try to turn sideways as quickly as you can. You will not find a victim who presented their straight open body to a collapsing structure unless they had been asleep or unconscious,” Doctor explains.

“And Ken wasn’t asleep there,” Rick quips as he contemplates, “Then what made him unconscious?”

“That’s a question that deserves an answer from someone who is not a doctor,” the doctor replies before adding, “And surprisingly enough, a similar story is told by the body of your other deceased mate from Springton.” The doctor then gestures to his assistant who pulls out another body bag from a freezer, and unzips it to reveal the corpse of Roger. The doctor points out to Rick, “If you look at my report on your second friend, you will notice how a similar injury to his chest has caused his death. He may not have had fractures to his limbs, but most of the injuries caused to his body, purportedly by rampaging cattle, were all post mortem.”

Rick walks up to his late friend, his eyes moistened by the memories he must have shared with the man, looks at him once and then turns away, “That’s enough information Doctor. I guess my work is cut out now. Thanks for your time and help.” He shakes the Doctors hand who exclaims, “My job Colonel. I’m satisfied I could be of assistance to you, even if in such unfortunate circumstances.” Colonel Rick acknowledges his assistance and walks out with his report in his hand. He pulls out his mobile phone and scrolls through his phonebook. He stops at Lieutenant Alistair Corbett’s name and dials the number.

“Hello Sir, how are you?” Corbett sounds loud and upbeat from the other end.

“Where are you?” Rick asks him.

“I am getting my suit fitted for my wedding next week,” Corbett replies, “C’mon, you know that! You are coming to it?”

“Your wedding?” Rick exclaims as if he didn’t know about it, “I don’t know. I need you here with me as soon as possible.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Corbett’s euphoria fizzles out and his voice becomes grim too, “Why do you want me there?”

“Don’t you hear the news? Have you lost your manhood in love?” Rick asks him a bit agitatedly.

“It’s about Ken and Roger, right?” Corbett asks.

“Is there any need to ask,” Rick replies with a question.

“But I have a wedding in a week’s time,” Corbett asks.

“Yeah, we need to fix that,” Rick exclaims, “But you are still young and have plenty of time!”

“You’re kidding me!” Corbett is incensed, “Hayley will kill me.”

“And if I don’t see your face at Roger’s Springton farmhouse by four ‘O clock, I will,” Rick puts it in simple words.

“Sir, you are forgetting one thing,” Corbett exclaims, “I am not an army man anymore.”

“That’s rubbish! Once an army man always an army man,” Rick replies with disdain, “That’s why we keep your brain forever once you join us.”

“But I am not employed anymore,” Corbett reasons.

“You freelance,” Rick responds with further disdain, “That’s what brilliant men do. They work independently for it gives them freedom to be their own masters and achieve greatness through their unrestricted genius.”

“So you are not my boss?” Corbett asks him.

“Of course not,” Rick replies, “I am your friend.”

“So I don’t have to call you Sir anymore,” Corbett asks a bit hesitantly.

“Of course not,” Rick replies with a laboured smile, then pulls out his gun and puts it to the phone’s speaker and cocks it, “It’s just that Sir sounds so friendly coming from your mouth that I would prefer if you stick with it.”

“Ok, I get it! I’ll be there,” Corbett replies sheepishly after a big gulp, and then yells at someone at the other end, “What are you doing? Stop taking my measurements for who knows what my size will be by the time I will get a chance to marry, and how many limbs my suit will need?”

“So what time I should expect you there?” Rick asks him.

“Ten minutes to four Sir,” Corbett replies.

“Good, I like that professionalism of yours,” Rick replies, “I’ll see you exactly at half past four. Don’t start without me!”

Well, now that our day is settled into a schedule, let us have some steak at one of the famous restaurants at the east end of the town before heading out to Springton. Perhaps we can have a bit of a nap by the river side to rest our flight suits too. The day is partially overcast and temperatures are pleasant. Nice day to be out and about, sleeping.

“Why do you think Roger will have his cattle roaming on the farm late in the evening? That makes no sense,” Rick can be heard asking Corbett just as we arrive, a bit late after having over slept. But looks like we haven’t missed much!

“Maybe he forgot to shepherd them back in during the day,” Corbett quips.

“You mean he never saw the flocks grazing right outside his window?” Colonel asks him, “And even if let us say something unexpected stopped him, like say he fell asleep and woke up late, what would have startled the cattle to go on a rampage?”

“Nothing as such,” Corbett quips and then informs Rick, “I asked his neighbours as you instructed, and they all say it was a clear night and they never heard a sound that could have startled the cattle. They only heard the cattle rumbling once everything had happened. And they all did say it was uncustomary of Roger to have left his cattle out that late. However none remember if cattle had been out on the farm that evening, or if it had broken out of the shed.”

“Let’s have a look at the shed,” Rick exclaims as he walks towards the cattle ranch.

“There are no signs to indicate a forced entry into his house. Looks like Roger walked out on his own. But his gun was found lying in the front yard, meaning he had come out armed, possibly to confront someone,” Corbett describes his findings to Rick as he walks besides him.

“Confront but whom?” Rick asks the pertinent question as he stops at the cattle shed door, “Looks like they have just fixed the door’s external bolting mechanism.”

“I asked the management from his insurers and they told me the bolting mechanism was damaged and had to be replaced with a new one to enable the shed locking,” Corbett explains the anomaly, “They informed me that they had taken permission from the Commissioner Police to alter this bit of the scene as it was important to ensure the cattle would be securely housed inside the shed. However, they did take photographs of the damaged mechanism for records, and have emailed me the same. I can show them to you on my mobile.” And Corbett shows the Colonel images he received from the insurers earlier as we look on from behind his shoulders.

“That definitely looks like someone pulled out the lock and bolt,” Colonel exclaims as they step inside the shed where all cattle is securely locked inside their individual cabins. “Even if the broken lock and bolt at the front door wasn’t enough, there are still confinements inside to hold the cattle in check,” Rick exclaims at the sight, “It all seems really murky.”

Corbett looks on before asking, “Where are Mishiida and Alexander?”


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