HONOR AMONG MEN

The year is 2081, and Earth has managed to survive the nuclear threat unharmed. Technologies harnessed to prepare for war are turned to other uses; genetics, bionics, and breakthroughs in medical sciences have made super-human covert operatives the norm in the corporate-political structure of society. This is a moment in the neo-life of such a being, who finds himself still human after all.

The Scenario: Covert humanoid “Eagle” has been credited a large bounty to capture a renegade scientist of the Sno-Ex Lab Cooperative. In an attempt to take the scientist/cyborg, Dr. Brookes, alive, Eagle is caught in a bomb trap while trying to disarm its detonator.

Darkness… pain… numbness. I’m dazed, but my conscious is returning. I couldn’t deactivate the device in time. Searing pain in my arm… Visual receptors coming back online. Adrenalin injectors kicking in. The impact must have thrown me clear, but my right arm is sheared off at the elbow. While I was out, the nanotech in my bloodstream kept me from bleeding to death. Brookes has escaped capture again! These corporate labs are like giant subterranean cities, and his trail of destruction has only just begun.

I get moving ~ I have to find a new arm and turn things to my advantage. The com-unit built into my left wrist looks a lot like an oversized calculator watch, but its more like a computer command terminal. I voice-active it, “Micro-Map: Sectors Alpha 6-7-8.” A schematic rolls across my left retinal implant, “Ah, there it is, Cybernetic Development Lab 2, the perfect place to find spare parts!”

I may have met my match with Dr. Brookes. He has been a step ahead of my every move. He knows I’m damaged and he’ll have his trademark traps waiting for my arrival. The loss of my arm is a slight setback, but my tech already has 87% of all systems back online. I ride on of the complex’s many transpods to the cyber-tech medical level. As I turn the corner of the north corridor I-5, the first boogey man jumps out! It’s a berserker med-tech droid and it thinks I’m a patient… I cartwheel away from its flailing jumble of restraint tentacles, laser scalpels, and vibro-saws. Micro combat circuits pinpoint its Achilles heel, as I launch my grappler arm for a direct hit on its visual interface, and a pulsed discharge of several gigawatts shuts it down for good. This was just a warmup exercise; Brookes has more toys awaiting my arrival.

I see the secured doors to Cyber Lab 2. A quick servo powered kick to its steel center is my skeleton key. Brooke’s has taken no prisoners; the bodies of six dead lab techs litter the hallway. I walk past the carnage to approach the room I seek. Scans indicate movement behind me, and I turn to see the dead walking; and they’re not here to party. Brooke’s calls it necrotech. It only works on the newly deceased, just before cell deterioration reaches its peak. They are slow, but strong and unrelenting in the pursuit of their given targets. The warped techno zombies seek live flesh to extend their limited lifespan.

I won’t make an easy lunch for anybody. I launch a viral grenade into their midst, in turn, it confuses what’s left of their tech-infected minds into thinking even dead meat is beneficial. Slowly they turn and converge on each other, leaving me unhindered to enter the supply depot I was in search of. A quick scan of the room reveals all is safe. I spot a flashing holocube on a workbench and activate it. It hums, then a ¼ scale holo of Brooke’s head comes into focus. “I see you’ve made itto the junkyard, as I knew you would. Don’t worry, there are no traps here. I want you “armed” and dangerous for our meeting, hah, hah, hah!” He laughs hysterically. “Did you get it? What’s wrong? No sense of humor?” CRUNCH!!! The cube is toast.

Now back to business. This contract was never about money, I wanted a chance to find out if I was still cutting-edge tech, or an obsolete model that’s ready to be retired. This is the test I need.

Brookes’ is good, but I’m better. I have to be. That’s why I was chosen for this mission, because only a cyborg can stop a cyborg. It’s true, Brookes’ has state of the art technology, where I was self-made from my own design. My uniqueness is my strength, and I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. The one I still have.

The sleeve I still have. Get it? (I chuckle). See, I do have a sense of humor.

A quick search of the lab turned up a few options for a new arm. There was a vibro-saw, powerful, but clumsy. Restrainer tentacles, too much of a power drain. But the winner by a landslide, a crab-like servo-claw. My choice is made! I quickly make the necessary modifications, then lay my stumped elbow next to it. “Initialize: Integration repair system, right forearm mode 2!” I command. Slowly, blood-like tendril’s crept from the amputated elbow, and merge into the servo-claw until I could open and close it naturally. The dance would start again, and this time I will lead.

Back into the corridor, I see the solid waste of zombie parts, all of them had gone to pieces. I know Brookes’ mind, he wants to fight face to face now, and he’ll be waiting for me. This lab, and all its facilities were Brookes’ turf. After all, he was born here, so to speak. Sno-Ex Corporate Laboratories was only an empty shell now. I knew he’ll be calling me out soon, when suddenly I heard his voice on the communication system, “So Eagle, tell me how you’re going to bring me in alive, so that they can dissect me and see what went wrong!” Okay, I’ll play. “Well Brookes’, I know the problem is not in your tech, it’s in your warped mind. I will bring you in alive, and I’ll enjoy it, too.” Without pause Brookes’ responded, “Bravo, Eagle! Come to the testing facility and we’ll see what you are made of!”

It takes fifteen minutes to get to the subterranean section of Sno-Ex’s testing branch. The door is locked. I won’t be kicking this one in, and unfortunately my plasma-projector arm is in pieces a quarter of a mile up, near the surface. Triple chromate alloy doors, with a retinal scan lock. I call up a lockpick code and put my eye to the scanner, we’ll see if my eye is smarter than the lock. Shickk, hisssss. Another test passed. Ah, this is a good place to fight! A simulated city block with all the room for a big brawl. Suddenly the lights go out! No problem, as the infrared and UV modes engage.

“A quick search of the lab turned up a few options for a new arm… the winner by a landslide, a crab-like servo-claw.“

In the distance I see a glint of alloy, reflecting off his outstretched arm. Already my eyes are at 200x zoom and I see his hand disappear into his left forearm, quickly replaced by a set of six vibro-blade tendrils, which extend out and beginning to twirl like a deadly parasol. He watches as I open my new servo-claw and use it to cut through a foot-wide lamp post. “C’mon Brookes, you can make this easy and surrender now, or I can beat you like a red-headed stepchild.” He smiles with his razor-sharp alloy fangs. “Just in time for lunch, Eagle!” He responds.

Now we are running at each other at full speed, just seconds to impact. WHAMM! Sparks shower everywhere, as my claw clamps onto his spinners. I launch my grappler, but he dodges and locks his jaws around the extended tendrils. As he tries to bite through, I let the voltage rip, but he’s not letting go. I flip back, delivering a flush kick to his face. As I’m about to land, his chest sprays a zero-traction fluid on the ground, causing me to slip. Luckily, he’s too stunned to take advantage of me. We’re back to our feet in seconds. “Can you fly, turkey?” I shout, as I switch to antigrav-mode. Now he’s hovering in front of me. “Anything you can do; I can do better…” He mimics the classic showtune. “Not bad,” I think to myself.

I catch him off-guard, with a kick to the chest that sends him crashing through a shop window, but he’s quickly back to his feet and pissed off. His spinner is at twice its normal speed and it’s just launched its blades at me. My enhanced reactions save me from 5 of the 6, but the last blade has found its mark and is lodged in my chest. If I still had a human heart I’d be dead, but I yank the blade out and cut it in two. “That hurt Brookes, time to go to school!” As I jump over him, my shoulder-pods open and let loose a barrage of stasis darts, most miss him, but one sinks deep into his left leg, immobilizing it. He has a grappler arm too; I know because he’s got my ankle and he’s swinging me into a ferrocrete wall. KRUNCH!!!

This guy is tougher than I thought; apparently, I’ve been unconscious for a while. I’m familiar with my surroundings – medical supplies and equipment fill the room and I’m on a cyber-surgical table with unbreakable titanium alloy leg & arm shackles. Furthermore, a link unit is merged into my wrist-com, negating most of my weapons systems. Brookes stands at the foot of my table, the light is dim, and his eyes glow a faint red; he says, “Well, my opponent awakens, and I bet you’ve got quite a headache to boot.” I spit at him, but miss by a mile. “If you’re going to finish me, do it now!” He laughs deeply and says, “You’ve no idea what you’ve been paid to do. You think I’m a cyborg, like you? Don’t you! You’ve been lied to…,” he stops and makes a motion towards his neck. Suddenly, his head splits down the center, revealing deeply encased circuitry. A moment of shock, then I regained my composure.

His brain must be in his torso, I thought. “No, Eagle,” He began, “My brain is not encased elsewhere in this body. My mind is all that exists now, and I’m truly non-organic. When the accident occurred and left me comatose, they took the liberty of trying out their top-secret mind transfer technology, without my consent.” He paused. “You, Eagle, may one day become become human again, when cloning is perfected. But there is nothing left of me to regenerate. You see, they had to dispose of my body to avoid all of the legal implications. So now you’ll die, knowing the truth. You’ll have to excuse me now, for I have work to do and the game is over. Check and mate, Eagle.”

As Brookes turned to leave the room, he casually starts the timer on a plastron charge that he had placed on the com-unit near the door. Left alone with 30 seconds to live, I had to think fast. Utilizing internal overrides, I disengage my torso’s main link and hover away from my shackled arms and legs. I’ll retrieve them later… If I make it. Taking only a moment to disarm the charge with my micro-servo arm, I store it in my chest for later use. It never hurts to keep an ace in the hole.

“Suddenly, his head splits down the center, revealing deeply encased circuitry.”

It’s been only minutes, but Brookes is well on his way to making his final move of vengeance. At the bottom of Sno-Ex’s 5-mile complex, he will attempt to disengage the fission core’s safety interlocks and turn the entire complex into a bomb. There are three transpod downshafts in the immediate vicinity, giving me a 1-in-3 odds of picking correctly. My choice made, I override the door safety and jump, free-falling at a phenomenal rate.

Three miles down, and a mile to go, I spot the roof of a speeding transpod. Paydirt! It has to be Brookes! Using my compact jets, I let loose a burst of speed to catch the transpod. “Time for that ace in the hole!” In seconds the plastron is planted on the roof and activated. I disengage and return up the shaft at maximum velocity, as the explosion’s aftershock rocks me, but leaves me unharmed. I know it’s not over until the end, so I change direction once more, intent on verifying the kill.

Landing, I find what is left of the transpod wedged between floors, resting on a twisted I-beam. As I shift through the wreckage, I find the confirmation I’m looking for; Brookes’ detached skull, at least half of it. I guess I can stamp this case closed, Dr. Brookes had finally been wiped. I picked up my “proof of life”, or lack of it, and focus on getting myself topside. I just need to locate the rest of myself, then turn in my report. I had told myself that after this mission I would get a total refit and then a vacation, paid of course. And I will! Hell, I earned it this time!

As I started my way out, I looked down at the only surviving piece of the late Dr. Brookes, when something caught my eye. It was a barcode on one of the transponder chips that had survived. I ran it through a systems-check program; and honestly, I almost wish I hadn’t! The chip came back labeled “transponder transport sending unit”, and it was a beta test chip! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. You almost made it Brookes, but that little chip just gave away your secret. This implies that Brookes could have uploaded his consciousness anywhere!

So much for my vacation! Those that write the checks are going to be very unhappy! Not to mention, it’s me who has to break the news. As I retrieved my limbs I wondered if I should just walk away from this one. I contemplated all this as I waited for transport. “Oh well,” I thought, “It gives me something to think about tomorrow.”

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