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Paris, 2016.

- At least we know it's not murder.

- Is that so?

"It must be suicide," Ballard told me, my right-hand man.

- Why? Did he leave a note?

- Not that I know.

- So how do you know it's suicide?

- That's the only explanation. You cannot force someone to dive into a concrete mixer in action.

They brought me here because I am the best in my field. They must have put in a lot of money to kick me out of the New York anti-narco division and get me to their fucking wilderness. It's been two months now since I landed, and I'm not quite sure I did the right thing to accept. More and more I feel like I have jumped into a trap with both feet. I remember my arrival after an interminable journey. From that exact moment when the airlock of the fuselage opened and I discovered the light of this place for the first time. She's one of a kind, you can believe me. Small shuttles left the airstrip to reach terminal 3. Less than an hour later, I discovered my service building. I stayed a few seconds on this covered square, in front of the large facade, facing this gaunt structure like an apparent skeleton, these glass tubes like blood vessels. It looked like a body devoid of skin and muscles. I smiled, telling myself that they forgot to make the salient when they started building this place about twenty years ago. But hey, the most important thing is that they made it last.

The authorities made me come here because I am the best in my field even if for the moment, the results obtained are not those expected. I must admit it. Local politics is zero tolerance. No guns, no violence, no drugs. There is no choice anyway. When they came to recruit me, the highest authorities were very clear on this. The big guys made me come to update a traffic. And end it. I excel in this area, I have a flair for this kind of thing. They already know the consumers, now they want to go back to the source. It must be said that the mortality rate among workers has become too high. Twenty-eight dead in the past six months. It’s really bad because they do everything to make people believe that their adventure is heaven on earth. And it is more and more complicated to cover up the case. Everyone is talking about it and no one knows how drugs manage to cross this apparently impassable border. Nor how it happens in the organizations of the victims. Nobody knows. And I am paid to know.

My name is William. I am 51 years old. I've always been a cop, that's all I can do. But this mission will be the last of my career. I have sacrificed too much, this job has taken too much, starting with my wife Carol and my son Paul. It has always been stronger than me, I never wanted to admit defeat. But now, looking at myself in the mirror in the morning, I begin to understand. Understand what my mentor told me almost thirty years ago: that deep down, I don't serve much, that my function is endless, that little bad guys will always want to be ahead of the curve . And that the real criminals are not those that we put in the shade or that we stumble upon at the end of a chase. All that doesn't matter anymore. Today, at my age, there is only one thing that really scares me: telling myself that I may never see the real world again. That of my childhood. That maybe I'll get stuck here. But no one should suspect it. So I give the change. I play my part. I also get paid for it.

When they see me, people know who I am right away. My uniform leaves no room for doubt. This morning, I put on one of the ones that had not yet taken out of its original nylon. We can still make out the folds in the cotton. Or in this synthetic material that imitates the softness of cotton so well. Obviously, nothing grows in this hostile environment. Everything is artificial here.

Around 7 p.m., going up in what serves as the metro, I looked around for a seat. Dozens of eyes have landed on me. This stuff has never bothered me. On the contrary, I take a certain pleasure in it. I stay cold, I like to feel their embarrassment. When they feel guilty, without knowing what else, just seeing me. I sat down and began to stare at a man in his forties. The immaculate hair, the well-done nails, he was almost suspect. I imagined him to be an engineer, or something. There are only foreigners here, all specialists in something. His emaciated face was as though closed in on itself. I felt a mixture of sadness and relief in his eyes, as if he had a heavy heart for having left wife and children far behind to come here, attracted like everyone else by a good salary and by whores cheap that his company allowed him to afford. Like all those Englishmen and Russians who are deeply convinced of being essential to the future of humanity.

As we approached the next station, the metro started to decelerate. A voice announced the name of the station. A few days earlier, it had been renamed in the name of one of the largest consortia operating here: Con-Am. I find it ugly that the stations turn into billboards. "It's the trend," Ballard told me, the one who had given me a hand with my installation. "Anyway, what the fuck, there are no historical names since there was nothing here before we got there." So why not charge those who no longer know what to do with their money? I find it clever, ”the young man told me, proud of his common sense. Just before the train started again, several people got on board. A man much younger than my engineer caught my eye. He had the basic worker's thick suit, and a helmet in his hand. Very astonishing to see him here with this paraphernalia. In this new city, the workers do not take the metro, they extend it. Hectometer by hectometer. They have their own means of transport, totally underground. So we don't see them. They do not mix with others, nor do they have the right to do so, as if their life had been taken from them. They have their own world where they live cloistered, sleeping on top of each other in sort of cages. In a way - and it's rather absurd to put it that way - we really don't live on the same planet, them and us. From the worker, standing three quarters in front of me, head down, I tried to catch my eye. To see if the whites of his eyes had turned orange-yellow. Like those of previous victims. The whites of the eyes were the second symptom.

The first went rather unnoticed. I even think he arranged a lot of people in fact. Gradually, the workers began to work better. To work more, I mean. Longer, without getting tired, without complaining, for the same miserable pay. They are building new neighborhoods at an incredible speed, they endure everything, like beasts of burden, especially these abysmal temperatures which are not made for the human body. They respect hellish rates. The sites are advancing beyond all hope. But they die far too quickly. Spectacularly on top of that, as if all of their moral barriers disappeared. And I am convinced that what looks like suicides is not. This is the kind of death that we cause among colleagues, without it being too emotional. Here, no relative will come to claim accounts. And even less of the bodies. These workers are nothing but building site. And then it is rare to find them in one piece when they disappear.

In fact, I began to suspect my direct hierarchy - not the owners who brought me in, but those a step below, those who keep the machine running - when Dr el-Azar showed me the reports of analysis carried out on the first corpse I was able to get my hands on. She, who was more used to prescribing tranquilizers and checking that prostitutes did not have syphilis, had the impression of having discovered a new molecule. The man had been seized with an attack of hallucinations, believing to see spiders climb on him and enter this dry suit which he had to wear because of the chemical fumes in this part of the site. He took everything away, in front of his dumbfounded companions. Instant poisoning. Purulent skin contamination. He almost exploded on his feet. The kind of hallucinations caused by an overdose of amphetamines. In fact, I started to suspect my superiors by putting myself in their shoes. I made a simple calculation: I told myself that it should probably cost them less to frequently renew a workforce that was killing themselves on the spot rather than keeping the same workforce purring at work. I know that I have no real figures for the weekly arrivals of new workers. I only have in my files these official figures that I quickly questioned. Because the reality is there: many arrive without anyone leaving. And then I saw with my own eyes the ovens that are used to get rid of everything. There is no question of creating waste here. It is even one of the foundations of life in this place. Zero tolerance, zero waste, we burn everything, without really worrying about air pollution. No need to bother with that kind of consideration. Here, we live from closed area to closed area. There is no question of stepping outside anyway. Everything can disappear. Our tons of plastic packaging like the bodies of these unfortunate people.

During my first weeks, I quickly realized that it was impossible to manufacture this drug locally. It had to be imported. So I conducted the investigation at the main terminal. I did not find anything there. It is impossible to understand how this drug can enter into the current security system. As if it was transiting elsewhere. Or that several of my colleagues close their eyes to certain containers. I have more and more the impression that I am being used, that I am being used to make citizens believe that the authorities are really taking the subject seriously. This polydichlorine euphimol traffic, this EPD crap, has to be profitable for somebody else, or it wouldn't exist. And I feel like the owners don't realize what's really going on. I don't think they close their eyes, it wouldn't make sense… Why would he have called me here? I dare to believe that they are not totally stupid. On the other hand, the middle echelons are surely taking advantage of the situation. And don't like to see me stick my nose there in their little schemes.

During the investigation, I had access to all the surveillance videos, to all the telecommunication tapping. Everything is controlled here, everything is recorded, everything is stored. A priori nothing can pass through the cracks of the net. And yet, not the slightest trace of petty trafficking around the corner like I've seen in New York for years. Distribution is necessarily done differently. Perhaps directly in the food that is generously distributed in the dining rooms. Or in those sweet drinks with questionable taste that are served at will everywhere. Because here, no alcohol. It's forbidden. It makes you crazy as in the great depths, it is well known. Anyway, what could we ferment? Dust and gravel, that's all that grows around us.

The train stops again. Nearly half of the passengers descend to join the gangway which brings them back to their quarters. There where they can have a little fun, the time of a few hours, the time to forget their isolation, the time to forget themselves a little. Outside, the sky seems to thicken, as if a sandstorm is brewing. It hits me suddenly: I'm really light years away from the small Highland village where I grew up, from the green nature that my grandfather ordered me to respect. Everything is so different here. But what am I doing here? Workers too must ask themselves this question. Must also have this feeling of uprooting. This desire to escape, to free yourself from your fears. No wonder Dr. el-Azar systematically found these traces of EPD when the following autopsies were performed. This fucking drug makes you forget that you are just an extremely limited being. Especially in such an environment. I wonder if they swallow it deliberately or if they ingest it unwittingly. It would change everything to have proof of that. Obviously, I lean for this second option. The one that will get me into trouble in spite of myself, I know that in advance. My bosses are very big idiots, but very big idiots who have the long arm and almost right of life or death on me. At best, they'll want to buy my silence. And I really don't know what I'll tell them. Real incorruptibles are good for movies. I am not the star that I claim to be. I'm just a big mouth. They may know if they have had my complete file in their hands. In the best case scenario, I'll do what I've never done, maybe let myself be bought and leave with a closed eyes. In the worst case, they've already put a price on my head.

Ah, it's my turn, my station is approaching. I'm finally going home. Finally ... if you can call it a "home" everything is alike here. I don't know what I'm going to do with my evening. I'm not spoiled for choice either. It will be screen or screen. And it's perfect like that, I want to forget a bit about this rat hole. If so, two killers are already on my trail and I won't see our little sun rise tomorrow. The automatic wagon door opens in front of me. Just above, I look at the map of the New Paris metro line. In the distance, on the other side of the station's airtight bay window, I can see the sandstorm approaching. Red sand. Red as the sky. Red like the planet.

In addition to this, you will need to know more about it.


In addition to this, you will need to know more about it.

Loosely based on the film Outland by Peter Hyams (1981).

In addition to this, you will need to know more about it.

In addition to this, you will need to know more about it.

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