In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Forty Seven
BY AL BRUNO III
The chamber was long and wide, it was all clean angles and gleaming surfaces. Men and women in pale lab coats were bent over workbenches that were crowded with simple-looking prosthetics and complex tangles of flesh. They worked by the half light coming from the far side of the chamber where the translucent wall revealed an expanse of thick azure fluid.
No one spoke or looked up from their work as Piers Sauno and Helen Ginnmett stepped off the elevator.
“Ah,” A grinning man approached them, “feeling better now that you’re changed?”
Piers gave him a curt nod, “Mr. Grant.”
“When are you going to start calling me Alan?”
Their footsteps echoed off the floor, as they wove their way between the tables and work benches. The lights in the room brightened as they walked, bright white illumination reflecting off every polished surface. None of the people hard at work reacted to any of it.
Ms. Ginnmett ran her hands experimentally over her chest, “They feel softer, are we using new materials?”
“Upgrading in the field,” Alan Grant said. “And I figured you might enjoy them considering your recent setback.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Mr. Sauno’s frown became a scowl, “I doubt you could have done much better.”
“Oh Piers.” Helen Ginnmett said, “he didn’t mean anything. Everyone knows we did our best.”
“I am not going to lose my station over some damned Vlodek and a pair of clueless nobodies.”
Mr. Grant shook his head, “This is why I decided to transfer to research and development, less stressful and closer to home.”
Dark, boneless shapes began to cluster in front of the glass wall, Helen Ginnmett approached them and began waving and cooing. “They grow so fast don’t they?”
Piers Sauno had turned his attention to one of the workbenches, he snatched a tiny processor from the woman working with it, “Is this what I think it is?”
“Oh yes,” Alan Grant smiled. “A visual cortical implant, when implemented it could restore lost eyesight.”
“And we’ll see whatever they see. When will it be ready for implementation?”
“Well, you can’t rush these things. Hopefully three hundred and fifteen million, six hundred thousand and two hundred basic intervals.”
“Hurry up and wait,” Ms. Ginnmett took the processor from her partner. “Isn’t that always the way?”
Mr. Sauno started walking again, there was a large vault door at the end of the room, “Enough of this. Is she ready?”
“Then lets get her.”
Alan Grant and Helen Ginnmett exchanged glances, then all three of them headed inside the vault.
The air was colder here, human shapes- naked, empty eyed and shrouded in plastic- stood even rows. One of the shapes was unwrapped and held up by a thick, metallic hose suspended from the ceiling.
Ms. Ginnmett and Mr. Sauno stood a respectful distance away, Alan Grant began unfastening the body from the hose. A series of hisses and clicks followed each movement of his hands.
“I’m surprised this isn’t all automated yet.” Piers Sauno’s voice had an edge of impatience.
Mr. Grant smiled at him, “It will be someday but for now I prefer this. A visceral experience for a visceral world.”
With the last latch unfastened from the metallic hose the body slipped free into a standing position. The torso of her Mark Thirty-Five Dissimulation Interface Unit was still splayed open revealing a complex network of ceramic plating and clear tubing. It slowly drew to a close until the artificial flesh was unblemished and seamless.
“I have to admit,” Alan Grant said, “I don’t understand why you had this one sent to the head of the line.”
“I know a malleable soul when I see one,” Piers inspected the naked, statue-still figure before him; the feminine curves and dark eyes.
“Plus she was Isobel Talbot’s best friend,” Helen Ginnmett added.
“This isn’t about revenge, pleasurable as that might be.”
“Then why?” Alan Grant asked, “I have about a dozen or so candidates waiting out there.”
Mr. Sauno paced in front of the figure, every aspect of the original shape was there, just improved and polished; even the flaws had been made beautiful. “Think of it, she followed her friend into this madness when others might would have turned away or just called the authorities. She didn’t just sacrifice herself for her friend, she sacrificed herself to us. She was meant for this.”
“You can take the man out of theology,” Ms. Ginnmett patted his shoulder, “but you can’t take the theology out of the man.”
He gave her a little smile, “If you say so.”
Alan Grant said, “She’s waking up.”
The three of them watched the body begin to breathe. Fingers fluttered experimentally. “So...” a dry tongue clicked, “...so small. Almost blind.”
Ms. Ginnmett shouldered out of her coat and wrapped it over the naked form, “Take it slowly dear. We're all a little claustrophobic at first.”
“I remember you,” she wasn't cold but she drew the coat in tight around herself, shivering out of habit and protocol. “Even my memories are small.”
Mr. Grant put his hands in his pockets, “What are your memories? What is your degree of integration?”
She glared at him, “I remember breaching the Maelstrom, feeding on what you left behind. The Shard Worlds glittering around me and the dreams...”
“I... I also know how to give a perm.”
Mr. Sauno put a hand on her shoulder, “Welcome to your new life Cheryl.”
Miss. McGlade smiled at them.