The campus hung wet and quiet with mist. Empty, save for those scurrying from one metal burrow to another. The man hunched his way towards his waiting airtaxi. He was here late tonight. Here long after the administrative personnel and other professors had left.
He slid into the backseat. “The Downs, Big Time Laundromat. 34th and South--”
“I know the place.” On the other side of translucent glass the driver shifted the taxi into gear. “It’s a long way. There’s still plenty of traffic in the Canyon.”
Swimming through the strobing lights of the city only gave him time to brood. He mulled over the words of that message from Mac again. The reason why there was such a sinking feeling in his stomach.
Professor, I made it. Need that favor. Can we meet tomorrow outside the ol’ waterin’ hole. You know the place. Please. 21:00. I know you must think me a ghost, but I made a deal. It’s not what you think. Mills could never flip me black hat. I found someone to put me back together. Long recovery time though. ANYway
Long recovery time indeed. It came from an deep web crypto pulsar and was unsigned but there was no one else it could be. Not after what happened. He saw the reels on his newsPAD that evening. Could still remember the way the bomb shock rippled across the glass, cracked open the panes and the burst of flame. Then the silence. The absence. What was it now, 18 months?
He got out at the Laundromat, keying a few extra credits into his ghost tag. The dancing holos congratulated him for his completed trip. There was some garbage out on curb across the street and he could smell it mixing with that sumptuous clean scent from the laundry vents. Walking right past the cowboy holobar next door into a seedy memory lane.
It was a surprise it was open at this point, “CerebRewire”. Place like this with no mounted neural curtain or tag scanner in this part of town… He always figured it was a front but there was no doubt that Chartreuse was a gifted medium who had reunited families and put histories of trauma to rest. The man waved to the Sybyl franchise clone at the front desk as he put down his hood and stepped beyond the threshold. She was there waiting in a booth at the far wall, glanced back when he entered, ducked back into the alcove, out of sight. He approached slowly. There was something different. She was different and he couldn’t place it in just that short glimpse.
The professor slid into the booth, staring down two glasses of water and Mac. She looked like a ghost. Pale and with new scars across her face. Symmetrical scars. Both sides down her neck too. She was wearing gloves.
“Prof, it’s me, it’s me.” She leaned in a bit. “Mac.” There was some wiring under her chin and ear.
“Don’t look at me like that, I would’ve died.” He slowly let out the breath he was holding for these first few moments. “Look, they had to reconstruct me from the torso up. I’d be dead if not for them.”
“Who?” She clammed up quick. “Mac, you know I can get you what you need. I never should’ve believed that Biotechnical would give me their research so easily. That project would’ve been my last.” The professor sipped on the lukewarm water as he frowned. “Why the secrecy, though? Who’re put you back together? That must’ve been expensive…”
The woman across from him grimaced. She took off the glove on her left hand. That was her deck hand. She pulled up the sleeve to reveal a suite of dagger synapse circuits under an exostent mesh up past the elbow. The arm skin looked like it had been sewn up to the wrist. This was a full retool, there was probably a human arm under there there but there didn’t have to be. How much of her was chromed up now?
Mac frowned. “Prof, I’ve got this new blood, but I owe them half a fortune and before you ask it’s more than you can cover for me. 1.8 mil. Don’t even think about it. I’ve still got a target on my back after the Root. Mills won’t let me live so I’m slinkin’ around the Downs and some other untagged areas but I can’t live like this. Not with what I can do to her now. I’m sure Weyland won’t mind fronting the rest of my balance for me.” He could feel his hackles rising as his surprise melted into horror.
“You can’t be serious about going after Weyland again?” The professor started to mix his fingers beneath the table.
“I’m getting even. I’ve got nothing left. I need a rig. Lend me your master key. I need a place with some high throughput so I can hook up my new supercomputer.” Her fingers were quivering ever so slightly.
Her face blanched even further, impossibly pale now with a faint spidering of veins visible now on the surface. The blood was moving, he realized.
“I won’t let you dash yourself against the rocks again Mac, not like last time. Don’t do this.” She glowered across from his. He had never seen her like this.
She stood up abruptly. “I have to step out for a second.” As she got up he could see there was a new twist to her gait, a new tension or weakness that had not been there before. Should he follow her? She didn’t so much as look at the clone. She had said new blood. The professor’s data layer had been scrambling like mad to read her during that whole conversation. No pulse, no blood pressure reading, no nothing. Echosomatics had picked up some steelware in her chest for sure, probably bone replacements. The scapulas would likely need to be redone as well in that case or at least refused. The works. This was Kate “Mac” McCaffrey we’re talking about. Never touched as much as a retinal implant and she was fine without it. Now, though? She was practically an android. Put a little silicone coating on a brain stem and you can see the matrix these days.
Not sure if he wanted to find her out there or not, he stood up to find out.
Mulligan for ProCo. Install half of Exodia.
SMC for Datasucker if you are pressuring centrals and Atman for the remote.
Clot is the flex slot, play Legwork if you want.