“Of course!” Terra said. “The episode was credited to Alan Smithee, but Shreve must have written it! He was killed trying to take it from a blackmailer.”

“I thought so too, at first, but there are two problems with that theory,” said Greg. “First, as you can see by these red carpet snaps on my iPad, Shreve had the script with him when he arrived. He made a poor attempt to disguise it as Tom Riddle’s diary, but the size is all wrong–too thin and too big. Shreve brought the script with him.”

“Why would anyone kill him for such a terrible script if he wrote it?” said Chief Strong.

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Sherwood Greg scootered his bulk around to face Terra. “Of course,” he said. “What motive could there have been? Shreve as living off his remainders, the damage he did to Galaxian as a staff writer far in the past! It didn’t make sense, until I found this.”

Greg swiped again, and pictures of a teleplay dated 1995 began appearing. “The script for The Malevolent Monkey, reviled by fans of Star Force Five as the worst episode ever, and the only one that series creator Rod Cherrywood declared apochrypal!”

Several Star Force Five fans groaned at the mention, and even the one poor soul dressed as the monkey from The Malevolent Monkey hung is head in shame.

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“So what happened, then?” Chief Strong said. “Whose prints are those?”

“They are the prints of the murderer, of course, the same person who dumped Shreve in the fountain. Don’t you recall, Chief, that one of the cosplayers mentioned seeing someone walking a little oddly around the time of the murder? We assumed it was Shreve and his affected limpy walk…but it was actually our murderer, walking backwards in their own footprints to make it seem like Shreve had come through, and conveniently dumping him in a place which was likely to was away much physical evidence. The bloody handprint was Shreve’s, but not the footprints.”

Terra shook her head stubbornly. “No, it still doesn’t add up. Why kill him? There’s no motive. If everyone who acts like a dick at a cosplay event were murdered, there’d be no one left!”

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“But we found Shreve’s footprint by the fountain, and his handprint in blood on the marble!”

“Yes, it would seem that way, wouldn’t it?” Sherwood Greg said driving his scooter in a slow circle. “But do you know what we didn’t see? The mark of his cane!”

“We might not have seen it,” said Terra. “The driveway is loose gravel.”

Greg produced the artifact in question, its serpent head gleaming malevolently, from his bag.

“You can tell a lot about a man by the cane he uses, especially if he doesn’t have the mobility issues some of us do,” he said. “I think we can all come to the same conclusions about a man who uses a replica Lucius Malfoy walking stick.”

Then he jabbed it lightly into the gravel, where it left a series of sharp impressions; on the last jab it sunk in so deeply that he simply let it rest there. Sherwood Greg then held aloft his iPad, with snaps of the footprints as they had been discovered.

“You can check these photos for timestamps and edits,” he said, “but I think you’ll find that they were not present. And yet, when we compare this shot from earlier in the night, we see that he had the cane when he left.” Greg swiped to a photo of Shreveport looking sour as he retreated through the door. “This came off of Instagram, where the posting time confirms it was less than five minutes before the body was found.”

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On August 17, 1972, police raided the Futuro compound after an attempt to serve a warrant the week before had been met with gunshots. The shots were fired by Danton Wells himself, who had been the only Futuro allowed to bear arms. His followers did not resist on his behalf, but the central building of the compound, which the Futuros had painstakingly armored with steel and phone books, held for 47 hours. Once breached, the police found Danton Wells curled up beside his computer, a long and rambling screed about the coming Deus by his side and a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the temple.

Curiously, the programming recovered from the computer was markedly different from the basic machine code when it was later analyzed. It was never run, though, and was destroyed with other evidence at trial.

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By late 1971, rumors of activity in the Futuro compound had led to a police investigation and a search warrant, which Danton Wells did not allow. Several Futuros left the group’s compound around this time, and though they did not go to the authorities, Wells was apparently convinced that they would. In January 1972, he abruptly declared to his remaining followers that the Deus had manifested itself and that the time had come to merge its technological aspect with humanity. He began trying to graft random inanimate components to his favorites to realize this; with no medical training, the results were gruesome. The oldest of his children was around four years old at this point, and at least four children are known to have died from having circuit boards or chromed metal rudely implanted into their bodies. Others were left permanently maimed, losing fingers and limbs. By the time of the final police raid on the Futuro compound, in August of 1972, only thee children had not been given this horrifying “treatment” in some way.

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By 1969, Wells was telling the Futuros that their efforts had taken on a new form. The Deus, in the person of a PDP-8 minicomputer, had instructed its followers to “breed” a perfect mother, allowing the machine god to be born a perfect fusion of organic and technology. What followed was a nightmarish period in which Wells wantonly took advantage of his female followers, locking those who resisted in an outbuilding and subjecting them to repeated beatings. It’s not clear how many children Wells sired during this period, but sources account for at least a dozen.

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