Suddenly and shockingly, you are in explosive movement, leaping out of a crowd on a New York street to stick briefly to a wall, then shooting out a long thready limb to an overhead flagpole while in mid-leap high above the assorted vehicles (you glimpse palanquins, horses, dinosaurs and even more exotic conveyances among the traditional-style yellow taxis; they are all ghostly and transparent, as are the people). A figure with a flashing red outline runs, and you pursue, swinging on the line; a bar indicator in your peripheral vision drops rapidly and you let go exactly when it reaches zero, landing you on top of him. Most of you becomes a capture net, except for your head, which begins a Miranda litany: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say..."
Cut to the office of New York's Police Commissioner. A large holovolume on his desk repeatedly replays the scene you have just experienced from the third-person viewpoint of a number of cameras. The crime is a bag snatch from an old lady. An anonymous Guplicate in the crowd nearby suddenly morphs into a muscular figure, leaps with frog-like legs to the wall, sticks (presumably with gecko pads), fires the arm/line, grips, swings, and drops on the fugitive.
"That's a real crime," the Commissioner says. "Foiled by our Special Division."
"That looked - kind of like Spider-Man," you (as Halwaz) say.
"Well, don't tell the comics company. Actually, we have kind of a deal with them, they figure it'll help their sales rather than hurt them, but we don't use any of their logos, you know? Just some of their ideas. New York has been the location of superheroes for what, over a century? We thought it was time to have some real ones."
Cut to a room where Halwaz is interviewing an athletic-looking, dark-complexioned young man called Albert Romanos.
"I'm Special Division, yeah. It's not like the superheroes in the comics, we show our faces like any police officer. Nobody trusts secret police, right?" He smiles dazzlingly. "But police shouldn't be celebrities neither. We ain't supposed to look for publicity. My boss had to give permission for this. We do a difficult job, but it ain't dangerous, it's all by remote control. It's like a sport to us."
"Can you show me your rig?"
"Sure, it's a modified commercial console with a suspension harness. Here, put it on."
With some encouragement, you allow Romanos to put you in the Gu rig, which suspends you above the ground and wraps around your whole body. You leave off the virtualizer helmet, since Halwaz has greyware. The floor rises to meet your feet, but clearly it can easily drop again to provide full three-dimensional movement through the air.
"I'll switch you into one of the Brandys," says Romanos.
You are walking, apparently on autopilot, along a New York street. Your heads-up display shows the surrounding people, vehicles and Guplicates as somewhat ghostly, and most of the buildings as solid, though some are partially ghostly and have ghostly people moving around inside, usually in the lobbies and other public areas.
Romanos' voice comes into your head. "You're in midtown, on East 27th. The solid walls are buildings that we can't see the inside of. Not everyone wants a police camera in their room for some reason.
"What we do is, we switch between anonymous Brandys and Clints, that's the generic female and male Guplicates, that walk around the main blocks. There's always two or three near to any location. They look just like the ones the tourists hire." He switches you a few times; you are walking along several different streets. Many of the Guplicates in sight are the silvery-grey figures, evidently based on Serena Koslowski's niece and her fellow dance student. Their features are approximate, like the Academy Award statue's younger brother and sister, if Oscar was silver.
"When a call comes in, or when one of us notices something, we go active. You need good balance, good reactions, you know? They test us on some of the toughest console game levels before they let us in - you got to be a console gamer to even apply. Plus you got to do the ordinary police tests."
"What do New Yorkers think?"
"They love us. And it's a show for the tourists, yeah? When crime is down we do training exercises, just so they get to see it."
"It would be kind of an advertisement to the criminals too, I suppose? A warning?"
"Yeah, except the ones we can catch easy like this aren't the ones you gotta worry about. It's like the comic books - when you get superheroes you get supervillains, and when you get cops using Guplicates you get crims using Guplicates. They run them in here through three levels of indirection from somewhere with no extradition, steal some stuff, even if you catch them at it there's nothing you can do except stop the crime. The real dangerous New York gangs are all operating out of what used to be Somalia now. I don't deal with that stuff, they got computer guys that deal with that - electronic warfare, you know?"
Cut to the Mayor of New York, backed by an enormous electronic wall map and dressed in a well-cut, dark-blue silk suit. She sweeps her gray hair out of her eyes with her trademark gesture and says, "Street crime is down. Way, way down. Look at this. That's street crime figures for the turn of the century." The map sprouts red bars, perpendicular to it, indicating the levels of crime in different parts of the city. "Now let's roll it forward." The bars fluctuate, some going up, others down, shifting with the shifting fortunes of different boroughs, until they suddenly go down with a bump, when the time indicator stands at three years ago, and stay down.
"That's when we introduced the Special Division. Our streets are among the safest of any major world city's now, and most of the ones that are equal or ahead of us are using the same tactics."
"Got to be good for in-person tourism?" you ask.
"Very much so, and as you know, in-person tourism is worth a lot more per tourist than tourism via Guplicate. It makes for a happy electorate, too, which is good for me." She smiles.
"So, what about non-street crime? Drug running, extortion, all the traditional gang stuff?"
"Well, we can keep it off the streets, but we can't change human nature, of course. There is a certain inevitable level of crime - we do all we can to reduce it, naturally, but we've done all the easy things; it's down to hard things, more effort for the same improvement."
"And is it true that a lot of this - background level of crime has shifted over to using Gu from remote locations, so it's harder to prosecute?"
"There is some truth in that, yes. A lot of that is out of our hands; it's down to negotiations at a federal level." She smiles again, an automatic politician smile that says, "I've told you it's not my fault, now go away."
Cut to Washington, DC, the office of Senator Bruce Davis, chair of the Senate Committee on Remote Crime.
"Well, of course the diplomatic solution is our first port of call," he is saying. "We encourage all sovereign states to sign up to the Remote Crime Limitation Protocols sponsored by the United Nations and Regions. Unfortunately in some areas of the globe either the will to implement the protocols is lacking, or they're merely paid lip service by governments which will not or, more often, cannot enforce them."
"And your fallback option is then what?"
"Well, that of course is outside my remit, and falls under the Secretary of State and the President. But historically where diplomacy has failed other means become necessary."
"Do you mean invasion?"
"Really, I couldn't comment on the specific implementations chosen, but..."
"For example, Senator, the invasion of Eritrea in order to seize the headquarters of several criminal gangs, the Congolese strike, the joint Australian-US 'peacekeeping' operation in Papua which arrested a number of remote gang leaders..."
"Well, as I say, Susan, I really can't comment on matters outside my specific remit. Now, my next appointment has arrived early, so unless there is anything further...?"