The Pit

The Pit

by Neil Penswick
The Pit
            The major looked at the body, It had been found floating In a pit on the outskirts of the Nicaean capital. Dirt farmers had seen the bundle of rags and pulled it out of the watery grave. It had been floating face-up, but was no longer recognisably human. Major Carlson estimated that It had been there for over forty-eight hours.
            It was the body of a young teenage boy. The head had been caved in and teeth were missing. Efforts had been made to disguise the identity of the child; the body has been burnt, almost beyond recognitlon, by a staser.
            How the boy survived so far was a miracle.
            The medics were treating the injuries, to try and keep the boy alive until they reached the hospital. One of the medics shook his head. There was no chance.
            "Can I talk to him?" Carlson asked. The medic shrugged.
            Carlson knelt down and looked at the boy's arm; he could see needle marks. Carlson had seen a number of these bodies dumped out in the desert. Victims of the drug gangs. Some were hostages held for money; others: warnings to relatives to pay up or face the consequences.
            The drug addicts were immoral. Once hooked into their nightmare world they would carry out any act, in order to obtain their fix. One of common crimes was "rootin", the senseless and arbitrary attacks on people walking along the street, with clubs, knives and stasers, for a few dollars. Burglaries, committed whilst high on drugs, often led to bizarre and violent behaviour.
            This was the first time the Police had found the victim still alive.
            "What is your name?" the major asked. He could hear the slight inhalation of breath and a groaning sound, apparently from deep inside the child. He leant over the mouth, pressing his ear towards the burnt lips. "What is your name?"
            He could hear a whispery sound. The boy was struggling to talk. "I am..."
            "Yes, I can hear you. You are all right now. You are safe..."
            The boy started to chuckle. And then a deep distinctive gasp. "I am... Legion."
            The major felt the last breath. The boy was dead.
            The day was stretching on. Carlson had said that he would try and be home on time but he knew his wife wouldn't understand. She worried about him. He sat at his desk kniking at the photographs of the dead body. He used the vidphone and told her that he would be late. She was irritated, as usual.
            He picked up the pathologist's report. In the previous ninety-six hours the boy had taken, or been injected with, a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs. The body also contained small trace elements of an unidentified drug. There were needle marks all over his body. He had been a user.
            But Carlson was nowhere closer to finding out the identity of the boy. There were a few missing person reports. A nineteen year-old student, from the college. But no younger teenage boys.
            Carlson wouldn't spend too long on the investigation. After a month, if they hadn't progressed any further, the body would be given a simple burial and the file closed. There was too much crime, and too little resources, to warrant the case remaining open. He had become used to the senseless cruelty and evil. Even if the victim had been a child...

            The burnt carcasses hung from the street lighting. There were two bodies tied together. They had been doused in an inflammable chemical and then set alight. Both were well known drug dealers. The Justice Police had arrested them four times before. Each time, they only carried rotweed. Now they had obviously irritated someone.
            Carlson was not involved in drug investigations although most of the street crime on Nicaea was drug related.
            "It's getting hotter," said a police officer. The major nodded The level of violence and incidence of crime seemed to be rising. Perhaps it was the beginning of the civil war.
            Carlson looked down the empty street. Only two kilometres from the shopping centre was the Riotsville area of the capital. He thought the murders were a warning, but to whom and about what? The people were more interested in the conflict across the Seven Planets. The Nicacean Declaration of Independence was leading to more unrest...

            He had informed his commander, General Kopyion, about his current workload. There had been eleven rapes, and seven murders, in the last three months. This was actually an improvement on the previous quarter. But what played on his mind were the last words of the teenage boy. "I am Legion". He thought that this might be one of the drug gangs which saw parts of Riotsville as its own territory. But there was no record of any such gang.
            Several days after the body was found, Manuel Beart was reported missing. His stepfather, a nervous, irritable man of Hispanic origin walked into the Justice Police Headquarters and told a story about his family argument and the fourteen year-old running away.
            Carlson was handed the report. It was over two weeks since the teenager had gone missing. Why had they waited so long to report his absence? The hologram of Manuel bore an uncanny resemblance to the dead body, but before the Family were shown the photos of the corpse, the major wanted to ask them some more questions.
            The home was unnaturally quiet Everything was in its place. They were believers. The book was prominently displayed. The mother sat opposite him, crying. The stepfather explained about how worried they were for Manuel. There was something missing about the scene. Even with the inexplicable time gap, there was something missing.
            And then Carlson noticed. The photos on display had three smiling faces. The mother, stepfather and a nine year-old girl. There were no photos of a boy.
            "Is this your daughter?" Carlson asked.
            The room went quiet. He asked to see her.
            "She is not there." As the stepfather talked about his own beautiful daughter, the mother began to wail.
            Carlson asked to see around the house. He wanted to see the boy and girl's room.
            "Please, no," said the mother.
            Inside the boy's bedroom was a mattress. Electronic bolts locked the door and window. The girl's room was well kept, but looked as if it had been ransacked. There was a deep red stain on the floor.
            "Where is she? I need to see her," said the major.
            "Tell him, tell him," cried the mother.
            "She is in hospital," the stepfather said quietly.
            "What happened?"
            "The boy..." the mother began.
            "He is not a child. He is evil." The stepfather began to pray.
            We tried to keep him safe, from himself," the mother said. "He tried to steal from us, from his friends."
            "This is how he repaid us."
            The major listened. The boy had threatened his parents. He said that unless they gave him money, he would hurt his sister. He said that they cared for his sister more than him. They had heard many words of abuse before. He had attacked them before. But this time they had returned home and found that he had injected their daughter with his drugs. She was hallucinating, screaming in torment.
            The stepfather had attacked him. He had screamed at him, that he was evil, that he would be punished. The boy's death had been an accident. So they said. The major didn't know.
            The family hadn't found any peace. The daughter was insane. The doctors had said that she was unlikely ever to escape from her pain.

            Carlson had interviewed the stepfather. He talked about divine retribution and about Judgement Day. He said things would be different, soon...

Source: Doctor Who Magazine #197