Author : Alexis Voltaire

My fist thumps heavily on the metal door, echoing down the corridor. I’m soaking wet, some of it water, some of it blood. some of it mine. “Sandogan!” I yell. “I know you’re in there, dammit, you’ve got business!”

I thump a few more times, but I can’t make too much racket. If anyone else sees me here they’ll turn me in. I wait. At last I hear the soft thumps of feet coming nearer. “Go away.” A gruff voice says from behind the door.

“I’ve got the chip, you miserable old fool!” I snarl. “Eighty thousand is triple your normal rate, now open up!”

I hear a loud deep whuffing sound. And a growl, a real animal one. “Back, boy, back down! Now sit!” Sandogan’s voice. A metallic chattering of a chain-lock, and then a rasp of bolts sliding back from all around the door. The door opens, and Sandogan peers through the gap.

There’s a scuffle and a blur of movement, more growls. Sandogan tries to close the door but it’s too late, a lean furry beast slips through the door with three mouths wide, glowing green fangs reaching for my arm, my throat.

I stumble back. Sandogan tries to grab the leash but it slips through his hands. My hands go automatically to my phase pistol, before I really realize it I’ve aimed and fired. A bolt of purple light sears through the beast and splashes off the metal wall. When my vision clears I’m left staring at a pile of ash and charred bones.

“Give me the chip and get in here.” Sandogan growls, holding the door open. I hand him the box and slip through the door while he counts the contents.

The room inside is a dump, a sagging couch, repli-pizza boxes scattered over the floor, a string of industrail LEDs instead of proper fixtures. But that’s the best you can get when you’ve got a blacklisted identity and a stolen bio-programmer module sitting in the corner, shining like the light at the end of my tunnel.

“I need a new face, one the corporation can’t find.” I say. Looking out the window, I can already see the red and blue lights gathering below. “Fast… And I’m sorry about your pet, really.”

“Only a new development for a customer.” Sandogan waves his hand dismissively, but there’s an edge in his words. “Only a two hundred thousand chip project.”

I swallowed nervously. It’s bad to piss off someone about to tinker with your genome. But unless I step into that booth… If I fight I’m dead, no two ways about it. If I surrender the corporation will turn me inside out to find out how much data I just stole. Heck, they’d probably do it anyway if I told them up front. Sandogan’s apartment is shielded, they can’t come in but they know I’m in the building. Living the rest of my life in a twelve-by-twelve metal box with a back-alley bio-engineer made the first two sound charming in comparison.

The booth door slides back with a clunk. “Get in.” Sandogan says from behind his computer.

I toss my phase pistol and keys on the couch, take a deep breath, and step inside the cold metal cylinder. White chemical fog and light flood my vision, my skin prickles as the alteration field strips away and dissolves my clothing. Automatic clamps and straps take hold of my limbs and torso, holding them in place. A needle pricks my skin, everything gets distant and fuzzy.

I really hope I don’t wake up with fur and fangs.

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