The anesthetics take the edge off, but getting your skull ripped open manually and a hunk of silicon dislodged from your brain is the kind of thing can knock you out from shear nausea, you think about it too much. I close my eyes and try to pretend that hot fluid gushing down my neck isn’t my own blood.
He plates me with stamp-sized titanium sheet, goes to work with the laser, melting my flesh back together over it. Smell almost makes me retch. Bastard’s a technician, not a doctor, but I’m playing a hard game and I don’t have time to do this right.
Being cut out of the Verse after a year of constant contact is like diving with the polar bear club—I feel alone like the souls of everyone I knew just got deleted.
“Here,” says Paris, handing me a cloth. “Sorry about the blood… I did my best.”
I wipe off the worst of it. I’ve been in enough bar fights to know how bad head wounds bleed, and to know mine’s not so bad.
I toss down the cloth and stand. Moment of dizziness, but it passes. I feel like a new man. Or maybe that’s just the meds—the flesh on the left side of my neck is still numb.
“Ah, one other thing, Jack. You realize without that chip, you’re immune system’s got nothing to hold off the nano-virus.”
He’s right—already I feel a sort of tickling in my chest like I have to cough, but it’s probably my imagination. Either way, my timeframe just dropped again. Damn.
“Have a nice anniversary, Paris.” I toss him the card with the porn server code. Hell, I’ve got it recorded in case I need him again.
Except I don’t, do I. Not with me, anyway, now that the chip’s been cut out. All my codes and information are on the Verse, so I’ll need a terminal to get to them.
I’m out the door and heading for the elevator when things go to shit. The hallway starts flashing with angry red lights, and I barely hear the subsonic whine of an active alarm. I freeze. I know about systems like these—the subsonics are going out to wake something up—the bio-tech lab’s home security. If I was the target, I’d be dead already.
Paris’ head juts out of the doorway behind me.
“Someone just made an unauthorized entry!”
“No shit,” I say.
“Get back, Jack—don’t get in their way!”
He slams the door. Little bastard.
Who the hell’s breaking into the lab? Have to be a damn stupid crook to try for a high-end place like this. And then it hits me. CyberCorp could have been monitoring me through my chip this whole time, and when it went dead…
And then I hear it—the hiss of hidden metal plates sliding upwards in some distant part of the building, releasing a frozen gasp of liquid nitrogen, and from that polar cloud something is let loose, charging towards me down the hall. I clutch my gun and—
It steps around the corner, scans me with its infrared eye-beam, snorts down at me and goes by, floor shaking beneath it. It’s some kind of genetically engineered two-ton Silverback gorilla, half metal and half leathery flesh and coarse black hair—but all killing machine. God damn bio-tech—that should be illegal as hell. It lumbers down the hall, scanning in infrared, sniffing for intruders, and at the intersection it’s joined by another.
I start edging toward the elevator.
Something comes hurtling through the shatterproof glass at the end of the hall, impacts the metal plating on the wall, collapsing it inward, hurls itself off and the first gorilla’s head explodes like a gigantic melon.
The second gorilla goes in swinging—its target dodges and the steel wall it hits instead crumples like foil and flies out the side of the building. There’s a blur as the intruder catches the animal’s arm, and kicking off the roof in a backwards flip, rips it off. Dark blood and electricity spurt from the wound, and the animal goes berserk, thrashing and biting. Lost in red shadow, the intruder swings the arm over his head and brings it down, hard. The gorilla goes down. And then, as he straightens up in the flashing lights, I see who the intruder is.
“Jack Fenix,” he calls down the hallway, voice cold as death. It’s Drake, and if I don’t act now, I’m going to join those gorillas.
Wait—what about Jared Paris’ EMP cannon? If Drake’s a cyborg, that’ll drop him—if it works.
No time for that—I pull out my gun and start shooting.
I try to beat him to the elevator and escape.