Episode 1 – Stowaway
“She’s a mule,” black-hair said, jerking his hand off the collar of my jumpsuit.
His fingers clenched into a loose fist before his arm froze, caught between the disgust to punch me in the face or to pull away in revulsion after having brushed the red ident chip on my neck. The stupid bastard could have just scanned me and avoided grabbing my collar to verify my answer, although, had he done so, the look on his face would have been fear rather than disgust. He should have just shot me in the back once he’d stepped out of the doorway and started following me.
“The name is Kay, K87564,” I said. “Although, hybrid is more accurate since mule implies sterility, and I can assure you, I’m anything but sterile. Are you taking me in?” I asked, sliding a hand to my hip while tilting my head to black-hair’s partner.
Sandy-hair wore the security uniform, but despite his training, he only saw a hip thrust rather than a shift in stance. I hid the hyper-burst of a chemical release behind a seductive smile, knowing that the look would only produce a brief hesitation—sandy-hair’s hand was already moving a hand to the pistol holstered on his belt. He also should have approached with weapon drawn and shot me before getting any closer.
“No,” sandy-hair said after looking me up and down one more time.
That was all the time I needed as a rapid cascade of gene resequencing followed the chemical release, and it nearly stopped my heart, my mind violently fighting the blackout induced by the backlash from the burst. A rebounding burst of adrenalin nearly blew my heart out of my chest, clearing my vision.
Now, sandy-hair’s arm was moving very slowly, his mouth still open, the throat tense as the vibrations of his vocal cords continued to work. I didn’t need to hear his next sentence anyway, the muscles on his face having already said they were here to kill me. I had been surprised he’d even asked me to identify myself. He and his partner should have known who I was, and their superiors should have briefed them on the danger of getting this close to me. Even the fifteen-meter range of their blast pistols may not have kept them far enough away once they’d hesitated and allowed me to transmogrify.
My eyes darted across the open clearing of the deserted park again, scanning the dark alleys and hidden doorways at its edges. Park was an odd name for the metal and stone in the middle of a city cube. I had never seen a picture of a real park, not having ever bothered to hack one from the secure archives, but I knew a real park did not look like this. Catwalks instead of sky, dust instead of earth, litter instead of vegetation, dim yellow lamps instead of stars—no, this place only carried the label of a park. It was just an address, a point of reference in the center of the fifteen-kilometer cube. It was nothing more than a deserted open space, the perfect spot to surround me at range.
I continued to scan. Still nothing moved. I should have been less casual and shifted my vision into the infrared as soon as these two had started following me. I hadn’t, since initially this encounter hadn’t the markings of a termination. The lack of containment had lulled me into thinking these two were nothing more than a bored security patrol looking for a little ass. If I had been marked for termination, these two would surely have known that backup was required, not needing to know my identity. They would have kept their distance and shot me from behind once their containment was in place—they were not following proper termination procedures for one of my kind.
I looked again at sandy-hair, his thumb just starting to flip open the snap on his holster. I wondered what the look on his face would have been had I answered truthfully after he’d barked at me to identify myself. Had I added the C to the end of my number, would he have still tried to draw the pistol, or would he have attempted to flee instead? Probably draw, wedded to the power of the blast pistol on his belt, blind to any caution those weapons always seemed to subdue—and I saw that he was quick on the draw, his hand already on the weapon. It was not fast enough to matter, however.
An explosive reflex threw a ridge hand, catching him in the temple and killing him instantly. Finally, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye as sandy-hair’s shattered head hung at the end of my hand, his mouth still open and his hand still on the blast pistol. These two had miss-timed their containment and engaged me too early, not that it mattered for me, other than the fact that now I would have the satisfaction of killing these two before I was terminated. I shifted my stance, and my same hand took out black-hair with a palm strike to the nose—his pathetic reflexes hadn’t even caused his still poised hand to clench fully in defense. I watched the two slowly fall to the pavement and waited for the terminating shot, death never a thing I’d been overly concerned with meeting.
I did have another thirty seconds before the muscle spasms started, however. A sprint would have me out of the center of the park in a few seconds, and I could scale a wall to a catwalk in another two. I might even be able take out a few more security thugs, depending upon how many pulse rifles they had trained on me. I could probably evade the pursuit for a few minutes if the initial pulse blasts didn’t hit me, but they would track me, and I wouldn’t have time to remove the ident chip in my neck. Besides, once the spasms started from the side effects of such a rapid gene alteration, I would have difficulty staying mobile.
Termination was inevitable for my kind anyway, and I’d only hastened this day of reckoning—it had only been a matter of time before I’d failed to modify my records completely, causing security to flag my movements as suspicious. They wouldn’t have needed proof of my activities since suspicion was all they needed to terminate a number. Therefore, I stood still, choosing to die here, not that this spot held any significance to me. The final entry on me would read K87564 (Chameleon)—Terminated, Central Park, Cerulean City Cube 8B367, Sol 27, 2136. File Closed and Locked.
The two bodies had almost hit the pavement, and I scanned the perimeter again, looking for the yellow flash of a pulse blast. I could dodge a single shot, but they had me surrounded, and if they were following procedure, they would lay down a pattern of blasts that would be difficult to evade. Surely, after seeing me kill these first two, one of them would have been quick enough to drop a laser dot on my skull and pull the trigger, causing the others to lay down a lattice of blasts that would cut me apart. They had to know hesitating would only get more of them killed.
The seconds ticked by, seeming like minutes to me, and still no terminating shots came. I felt the first twinge of a spasm. I scanned the perimeter again, this time turning over my shoulder, trying to get a count of their numbers. Six had moved, giving up their positions, and I assumed four times that many had surrounded me. I glanced overhead just as two dozen figures moved in unison, stepping out of the shadows. Panic consumed me as another small burst of adrenalin thwarted another spasm. None of them carried blast rifles. I sprinted for a wall, frantically looking for any open doorway or window.
Flashes lit up the park, and I felt the static discharge from the shock nets, the smell of ozone sharp in my nose. An eruption of mini lightning blasts lit up the ground in my path, and I jumped sideways. Another set of blasts turned me back to the center of the park, and my mind was almost unable to count the few seconds I had until those weapons recharged. Both my legs jerked violently, and I stumbled, falling to my hands.
Fighting the cramping pain that had started rippling through every muscle, I fought off another blackout just as the blast pistol still in sandy-hair’s holster came into focus. I crawled to it, dragging my useless legs behind me. I had to reach that weapon and stick it in my mouth before the shock nets immobilized me. This was not a termination mission—it was a capture mission, the first two used as decoys to stop me.