All anyone wanted was to feel something and Patrick Chancellor, Agency Detective with the City East Constabulary, was no different. He had been saving up so that he and his family world be able to feel something this summer. Maybe excitement, possibly an hour or two of joy but, if at all possible, a week’s worth of happiness. So far it was looking good – they were dipping into a weekly ration of anticipation and looked set to ramp this up in good time for his summer leave.
It wasn’t easy of course. Agency Detectives didn’t earn as many emotions as, say, your average white collar office worker. Plus this was a high-stress job which came with surprise, fear and a fair bit of disgust. Sometimes the additional emotional benefits included in his monthly employment package weren’t enough to cover everything that happened. With some costly resentment, Chanceller believed that he was effectively part-funding his job.
Gazing down at his monthly domestic expenses, however, he allowed himself to use a little of the confidence he’d been putting aside. Confidence was fairly easy to come by for him. Most people would give you some for a bunch of mixed emotions. You could get a tantalising amount for a few seconds of determination, and there were some out there who’d give a whole day’s worth for just a hint of optimism.
This did not, however, provide much shelter from the problems the country and its people were facing. The constant pull from service providers and retailers of all the major emotions was grinding everybody down. The ever-rising cost of living was taking more and more positivity away from people, making satisfaction and peace increasingly hard to come by for anyone who worked for a living.
It wasn’t like this in the old days, thought Chanceller. Back when he was a kid it was pretty much possible to get any kind of emotion you wanted whenever you wanted it. Hell, you made your own fun so it never took much to get happy. Now the exchange rate was so volatile you couldn’t trust your ability to secure any steady emotion. Chanceller’s own reserves were being drained by the worry he felt for his kids as they sat in their room, staring ahead of themselves, waiting to feel something. As it was he could only afford to give them a few seconds of cheerfulness which passed from him to them when he held their hands each morning.
Chanceller clicked his tongue as he scanned the month’s statement from the gas board.
“More problems?” asked his wife.
“They’re having a laugh,” said Chanceller. “They really are.”
They hugged each other, exchanging a small amount of love. At least, thought Chanceller, he was still able to bring enough of that into his home.
He lay his hand on the emo-credit box in the bus and the driver accepted the right amount of gratefulness before allowing Chanceller to take a seat. Chanceller reflected grimly how the same journey used to cost him just a little appreciation.
Today was a significant one for Chanceller and his team. They’d received a tip-off that a gang in the Leadmill District of the city had been stockpiling something in a warehouse by the docks.
“Looks pretty serious,” said the Recon Officer. “We followed a couple of the guys and from what we’ve seen the street value is huge.”
“Do you think it’s lust?” asked Chanceller.
Recon shook his head. “We’ve detected an air of disappointment outside the location. We think they might be sitting on a load of happiness.”
“They’ll not give that up without a fight,” Chanceller muttered.
“Them upstairs are suggesting you use the element of surprise,” said Recon.
“Are they?” said Chanceller. “I’ve not needed anything like that before.”
Chanceller knew about the use of emotional elements but, like many in the force, was wary about their use. They only deployed them when strictly needed – cost, of course, was the main issue – no one like the idea of wasting all that emotion if the mission failed.
“I guess we’d better get it signed off then,” he sighed as he picked up the phone.
At two in the afternoon, Chanceller and three of his colleagues pulled up round the back of the warehouse in an unmarked transit van.
Rolling back the side door they swiftly and efficiently disembarked, bringing with them a small black box, plain but with a ring-pull on one side. All four wore black back-packs, stuffed with restraining tech. Chanceller shouldered a large heavy metal breaker.
Wordlessly and mechanically they moved to what Chanceller had identified as the rear fire door. With the box still held carefully between a couple of the team, Chanceller counted down on his fingers and when his hand was a fist he and the fourth team member stood back and rammed the door with the breaker.
The door gave at once. The team hurtled through the entrance and down the stairs to the basement, Chanceller already screaming the precaution detail at the top of his lungs:
“Stay Calm! This is a Police raid! Stay calm! No sudden moods! No sudden moods!”
At the bottom of the stairs was another door, wooden panelled this time and no opposition at all for the breaker.
As the splinters fell Chanceller and his team found a small room, lit by unshielded light bulbs and holding maybe half a dozen people. In the centre stood three figures in balaclavas, around the edges their captors – ordinary members of the public, each with a fixed grin on their face.
Without pausing for breath the team deposited the black box in the centre of the room and stripped one side using the ring-pull.
The impact was unlike anything Chanceller had seen before. The element of surprise swiftly scattered panic across the balaclava gang and within seconds they were trying to exit the building. Chanceller’s team were ready however and all three were caught and calm-cuffed before getting further than the stairs.
When the dust settled Chanceller called for medical back-up to help the hostages. There was no doubt about it, this was a happiness haul and disturbing to see. Whatever anyone said the sickening expressions on the faces of the captives wouldn’t shift. The gang had clearly got hold of some generally happy people, held them here and then brought more and more happiness to them, using them as store-houses for the emotion. The gang would syphon amounts off each of them and sell it on the street at a premium.
The three would later claim the people in the room were willing accomplices, work colleagues even – after all, who could possibly object to being that happy? Chanceller knew this stood no chance in court – after all, coming down from that level of emotion would be no picnic.
“You did well today,” said Chanceller’s Chief Officer, having listened to his spoken report. “Sounds like you broke a pretty strong emotional gang. Possibly undermined a whole supply network. We’ll have to wait and see what happens out there.”
“Thankyou, Ma’am,” said Chanceller.
“Meanwhile,” the CO continued, “I suspect them upstairs may want to offer you some kind of promotion. Possibly not immediately, but carry on like this and you’ll be well on your way.”
“Thankyou, Ma’am,” repeated Chanceller. The CO shook him by the hand for the required time and as Chanceller left the room he realised she had given him something he hadn’t felt for a long time: Hope.