By David K Scholes
“This suspect, I’m not sure he even exists Bill,” said my detective sergeant.
“How come Jen?” I asked.
“Well there are no images of him anywhere on the internet. Not even on the dark web or the interplanetary link. Even when I used the Einstein/Newton search engine he doesn’t show up."
“What about his fame score?” I enquired.
“Nothing, zero, zilch, just not registering. Even the lowliest hermits would score a 0.001 on the index. Just as proof of their basic existence,” responded Jen. “Even hermits have images on the net,” she added “you remember that compulsory imaging program which swept up everybody not imaged on the net.” I nodded. I was tempted to conclude that he didn’t exist but in my game you can’t take anything for granted.
The image of our suspect had been constructed from the memory of someone who thought they saw him at the murder crime scene. A mind stamp image. Much better than the old identi-kit approach. Yet mind stamp images could be unreliable. Some had ended up being constructed from mere dreams. Dreams confused with reality.
Though it wasn’t just the mind stamp image. A very similar physical image, they used to be called photographs, had been found inadvertently in an unrelated search. In an abandoned, physical building. Where they used to sell stuff physically over the counter. Before it became illegal to sell anything except over the internet. “I think they used to call them shops,” I told a puzzled Jen.
At that moment Jen and I were both looking on the premier internet site “Images.” The largest site on the net that purportedly captured one single copy of every image of a natural person, clone or AI person ever displayed anywhere on the net. The fact that there was no image of our suspect here was persuasive though not conclusive that he didn’t exist.
We came to an older part of the Images site. “What is that interspersed between the images? It looks like a series of image captions all strung together, one after another” asked Jen innocently.
I chuckled, clearly showing my age. "I think they used to be called words, if you get enough of them strung together, they formed what they used to call a sentence. Or even more of them and they could form a paragraph.” I deliberately didn’t say any more. The concept of having enough captions to fill a page or more might be altogether too much for Jen’s graphical/image based approach to things. Efficient though she was in her own particular way.
Of course we are all familiar with words that we speak and as part of our thought processes. Yet in our modern image and graphic-based world long dissertations on the net are becoming increasingly rare.
“Here’s the rub,” said Jen. “What individual, still living, would not have done a “selfie” and put it on the net or at least been captured in someone else’s selfie? What individual scores 0.000 on the fame index?”
I had to agree that she had a point. If it had just been the mind stamp image we might not have taken it further but the very similar physical image, the photograph, that was found, gave me pause. Not an exact match but 98%. Too high for a family member and too low for a clone.
Suddenly on the Images website we came to a very long string of captions. Several pages worth. Jen excused herself for the moment. She seemed freaked out. I stayed and diligently read the several pages of “words.” Explanatory notes at the very end of the image library.
Two small headings caught my attention.
“I think we should just take another look at the net’s interplanetary link,” I told Jen when she returned.
“Why?’ asked Jen
“Just call it a hunch,” I replied adding “and maybe something I read.”
We didn’t find them first time, as if they weren’t meant to be found, but third time around there they were. Two listings. One of a small group of imperfect clones that had been shipped off planet to cover up the mistake and a very small listing of entities (read natural persons, clones, and AI’s) thought to be suffering from the incredibly rare Image Aversion Disease (IAD).
Everyone on each of the two lists had an image somewhere on the internet. Mostly on the dark web.
With one exception. A “man” mentioned on both lists but without any proper image. Just what they call in the trade a “skeletal sketch” attached to both lists. We used the latest enhancement techniques on the crude sketches and came up with a near perfect match to our suspect.
It turned out he was the first of the imperfect clones and was really now quite old relatively speaking. Which explained why he had showed up in the old photograph.
“That’s it then!” I said “that’s our man or our clone”
“When did it show him being shipped off planet?” asked Jen.
“Just a few days after he was at the crime scene,” I replied “he was shipped to Gloldansk.” I continued smiling.
“Neat,” said Jen “that place is basically a tolerant holiday destination. He’s done well. Left Earth under near perfect cover and ended up in a little slice of heaven. Where they don’t care, or even know, about imperfect clones.”
"We better get packed then Jen,” I said “I’ve always wanted an excuse to go to Gloldansk.”
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The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These site. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently working on a new science fiction novella.