Author : Dave Rudden

It screamed as the last of the connectors plunged in.

A proper scream, a gut-scream, lifting it off the surgical table in an arched back gasp-shudder orgasm of pain and raw hate that made every hair on my exposed arm shiver with sweet appreciation. The med-arms retracted, drizzling blood from hair-blade edge and tweezer barb.

The thing on the table exhaled in a servo-whine. Its ceramic eyelids fluttered.

I had found her in the Big Nothing, a petty thief fuelling a click habit by turning over liquor stores and the occasional food depot. My God, she had been beautiful. A curved blade of a girl with dark eyes and the rainbow slick of a chem-tat on her cheek, barely five foot of muscle and slick leather. It had taken two blocks to run her down. I could have stunned her, used the up-scale neural amp that had taken me six months to acquire on the black market, but part of me had wanted to watch her run.

The first test.

She had moved like liquid silver, darting from shadow to neon-furred shadow, looping through the nonsense-pattern of streets, scaling fire escapes and metro-cables. She took down a cambot with a thrown knife, doubled back to crush another with a purloined length of rebar. I doubt she even asked herself who her pursuers were. She just ran. That pureness, that simple, animal lust for freedom…


In the end, she had turned to fight, pulling a gapper pistol on the cowled figures that had matched her step for step across half the streets of the Big Nothing. That impressed me. Far beyond the obvious physical parameters, a certain… fortitude was required. A need to fight. A hateful, scraping, primal need to survive, no matter the odds.

She had shot two before they had taken her screaming into the dark.

It had not been easy, getting this far. She had flatlined twice during the procedures, and but for her common blood type I would have had to dismiss her as a usable subject at all. Her implants would most likely be rejected, if they interfaced at all. The thing on the table let out another hissing breath, and struggled to rise on limbs of slick ceramic and steel, the joints purring as they fought to respond. It would be days before the neural links moved as smoothly as un-augmented flesh.

Her voice, when it came, was a trembling warble of static.

“What am I?”

A capital crime, I thought. An experiment with weeks to live. But a death I will learn from, and the next girl, the next thief or click-addict or whore, will live just that little bit longer. And then all of you will be remembered, in that first prototype, that first shaking step.

My voice cracked as I replied.

“You are the future.”


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