Nine Lives

Harper is a new investigating officer for the prestigious Department of Reincarnation - a specialist division of the Bureau that researches the mysterious phenomenon of reincarnation. On a routine mission in the City, Harper uncovers more than she bargained for in a way she least expects.

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1. Curiosity Killed the Cat

"The mutt just kept bitin' n' snarlin', tryin' to rip of me hand it was! No doubt about it, it’s me brother Jeb."

 

"But sir, I don't understand why your brother would try to attack you?"

 

"Well we fell out after me Da gave the farm t'me an' left Jeb with nothin'. That would’ve been about three years ago an' we never got on after that. Jeb died last month y'see, fell off one of them there skyships where he worked here in the City, the stupid bugger. He's probably still angry wit' me."

 

"And you're convinced that this dog that attacked you yesterday was your brother?"

 

"No doubt in my mind, it were Jeb. The mutt even looks like 'im!"

 

"So your brother had previously tried to bodily harm you?"

 

"What? No! Bloomin' heck no! It were the fact that he's a dog now, must be in 'is instincts or somethin'."

 

The farmer tapped his temple to exemplify his point before giving the cage at his feet a nudge. The dog inside lifted its head from the ground and looked forlornly up at Harper before returning to an almost comatose state.

 

Harper shook her head.

 

“Sir, this is just your pet dog.”

 

“Now hol’ your horses right there woman-”

 

Harper held up a hand to silence the now spluttering man.

 

“Your brother Jeb did not die in the skyship accident five weeks ago. He merely broke his leg and is still recovering.”

 

The farmer’s face was contorted in confusion before turning to rage. He gathered himself to full height, his deep-set eyes fixing on Harper’s. He opened his mouth but Harper cut him off.

 

“Sir, might I now take the opportunity to state that it is an offence to deliberately mislead or deceive an officer, especially in a case involving reincarnation, punishable by prison sentence under the Bureau’s Reincarnation Investigation Act.”

 

His eyes widened in surprise.

 

“I am sure, of course, that you did not think you were lying when you made your claim Mr. Redford but we have often had similar situations with people conjuring up dead relatives in the form of family pets. It is a great waste of our time, though we suspect that the prevalence of such incidents is due to the hefty sum we have placed as a reward for those that help us in our investigations.”

 

Harper smiled thinly at Mr. Redford and continued.

 

“With that being said, I think you and your dog should return home, but if you ever encounter anything else please don’t hesitate to contact the Bureau again.”

 

Mr. Redford stood for a second staring dumbly at the small, shorthaired woman in front of him. He didn’t make any move to leave until Harper bent down, picked up the cage containing his dog and handed it to him. She gave the now disappointed looking farmer a meaningful look before turning on her heel and never seeing him again.

 

Harper had worked for the Bureau of Research for almost ten years and learned early on that as an investigating officer it was important to exercise a healthy degree of scepticism. Having worked for the Department of Reincarnation in the Bureau for little more than four months she had learned that it was important to never believe anyone.

 

She realised it was almost evening as she emerged into the City from the sprawling train station she had agreed to meet Mr. Redford at. The sky was almost orange with great tendrils of an ominous black cloud spreading out along the horizon.

 

Harper frowned. She didn’t like the rain.

 

The cacophony of the evening rush hour was drowned out once she clambered into a skytaxi. It sped off, weaving its way through lanes of traffic before jetting up into an airlane. The buildings around her blurred by until the skytaxi grinded to a halt when a skyship floated into view, slowing them down. Harper groaned internally; this would add another half an hour to her journey across the City to the Bureau’s offices.

 

She settled down into the dubiously stained backseat and began working on the report she would need to have completed before the end of the day. She had written many, many similar reports on failed attempts at documenting Reincarnations. As such, it was long but not difficult work. However, it always gave the opportunity for Harper’s mind to wander. And wander it did, to familiar territory.

 

Why am I doing this?

 

Harper knew she would never be out of a job working for the Department of Reincarnation. The money incentive they offered for any member of the public that could produce a Reincarnation proved fruitful in getting every greedy, shady or desperate person from far and wide to respond. As long as people were willing to make a claim as to having found a Reincarnation, Harper would be busy.

 

Harper knew the significance of finding actual, tangible evidence of Reincarnations on society. To live a life, even after death. The concept had fascinated researchers for thousands of years and threads of evidence were visible throughout history. Though the questions it raised were innumerable.

 

Harper also knew that none of these things were really why she had worked so hard to get a job in the Department of Reincarnation. She knew the exact reason why she did what she did. She needed answers. Answers from her parents.

 

Who were dead.

 

Harper knew the only way she could find out the information she needed was to talk to them one last time and reincarnation was the only method. It was a shot in the dark but Harper had invested too much of her life into this to stop now.

 

She remembered the last time she had spoken to her parents – it was an argument. A fierce argument. She grimaced and gazed out the car window as the memory came flooding back.

 

The skytaxi had finally arrived at its destination and was descending speedily to the ground. Then, another car appearing seemingly from nowhere below them careened upwards directly towards Harper’s airtaxi. The two cars collided in a great crash, a storm of flame and metal erupting just outside the Bureau’s entrance.

 

Harper never even saw it coming.

 

People rushed towards the wreckage in a matter of seconds. They stood in shock and horror. Some called for emergency services in vain. Everyone agreed there was little hope of survivors. They were right of course. When doctors arrived to the scene a little time later both drivers and Harper were pronounced dead.

 

On the other side of the street, opposite the Bureau, lay another body. The car that had crashed into Harper’s skytaxi had claimed another victim when the driver lost control of their vehicle. A stray tabby cat lay, motionless and forgotten, as the chaos of the crash burned on.

 

Later that night, the storm that had been threatening all evening was in full force. Great sheets of rain thundered down. Outside the Bureau was quiet, save for the howling wind. The cars, bodies and people were long gone. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

 

Then, a cat stirred on the slick pavement below the towering skyscrapers of the Bureau. It blinked a few times, not yet aware of its surroundings. It got up, shivering and panting in the rain. Its hackles were raised in fear, tail now swishing in great arcs. It stood staring at the spot where the crash had happened, transfixed. The cat then looked down at itself before emitting a desolate yowl. It collapsed to the ground, curling up tightly as if to hide from the world. It was afraid.

 

It was dawn when the storm passed and only then did the little cat rise again. This time it stood and did not shake. This time it stared at the Bureau with a determined look.

 

The cat was Harper.

 

And Harper had work to do.

 

 

 

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