VZ Goliath [Sci-Fi Novel]

05

Sam was laying on the white stretcher in the room over. It wasn’t clear how much time she had left, if any. The old man wasn’t able to help them and did not even want to. It was not his business, and he wanted them out of his house as fast as possible. Only the gun in the bald man’s hand persuaded him to continue.

Tech implants were not his specialty and his lab did not have the tools needed. He could only keep himself busy with the things he knew. He would try to waste some time, maybe she would die by then and they would both disappear.

His lab was dusty and unorganized. He had not used it in many months. People would come to him to get a health checkup way below legal prices, but today turned out quite different. In the afternoon, the bald man had knocked on the door to his container, the woman on his arms. He knew who she was, but he did not recognize the bald one. Her bounty had just been taken, and he had no interest in getting a bounty on his head for helping her.

After a minute, the door swung open and the man came in. He had overwritten the security system and looked pissed.

“Is that how you greet old friends Salim?”

The bald guy had no idea what he was talking about. Sam Vahn was not his friend, and he did not even know him. Sam Vahn was working with Dan Obun. Both were people nobody wanted to mess with. He knew Sam from when she was working off-grid. She had done many jobs for him, and he had exploited her expertise as much as he could. At some point, she must have gotten behind how little he was paying her and had not contacted him since. Maybe the bald guy knew and was being sarcastic?

“You better fix her up, or I will fry that lung implant of yours.”

That woke Salim up. How did he know about the implant? It had been done off-grid and never landed in his medical records. He never told anyone about the scarred tissue in his lungs. Streams of anxiety were flowing all over his body.

He was starting to sweat and baldy noticed. He was smiling, which made Salim even more nervous. It took him a while to find out what was going on with Sam. Her implants seemed to be running on reserve, and he could not establish a connection to them. Her body seemed to be in a coma. Baldy went through the stuff in his rooms and did not seem pleased.

“You have nothing useful here, old man. None of this crap can help with implants. How can you call yourself a doctor?”

“I don’t call myself a doctor. I just check up on people, not more.”

“Seems like it.”

The large container that Salim called his home was only sorted in the first few rooms. From where the bald guy had entered a small office with bookshelves on the walls opened up on the left, a desk with chairs and essential medical equipment for patients on the right. Behind the dark brown desk, a leaned-on door connected to the large lab they were in, and a small ladder was leading upstairs into his private rooms. The old lab equipment was built into the walls of the room and covered in dust, but somehow still worked.

Salim took some of Sam’s blood and ran it through the large apparatus covering the wall behind her. The model was at least a decade old but still did its job. The two of them sat on chairs facing each other for several minutes till the machine pinged; Salim looking at the floor, baldy starring into Salim’s eyes. The results came up on the monitor, and he had to freshen up his memory by finding the manual. He could not remember what half of it meant.

“Her blood values are all over the place. Maybe she has a virus or an infection?”

Baldy had already streamed the results to his mind and filtered through them on his retina.

“You are an idiot. A useful idiot.”

The only important results were the anomaly in her blood and the error report of her implant. Her body had been paralyzed, and her implant was attacked by a virus. It was able to defend itself and had put her into a coma, just in time before the virus could cause any severe damage.

He now knew what he had to do to wake her up. He changed the options of the large machine and isolated the virus strain. The results popped into his mind. It was not a virus; it was an implant upgrade. The liquid in her blood had not attacked her body; it was trying to overwrite her implants from the inside. It would sooner or later overwhelm the implants and execute its code. The old machine had no option to examine the code itself, so they had to analyze the sample later.

Salim was standing next to him while he was hammering the buttons of the machine, developing a formula that would isolate the liquid in her body and flush it out.

“Do you have a manual for this old junk in your head? I never saw any of these options when I used it.”

“You are lucky that you still have this “junk” around. This series is quite rare these days. The newer models are smaller, but their failure rate is higher. This thing will probably last many more decades if you take good care of it.”

“Why do you know all this stuff? Who the hell are you?”

“You don’t want to know, and soon you won’t remember.”

The bald man’s anger seemed to have vanished once he had gotten his hands on the machine. Salim had no idea what he had done, but it seemed like it would wake Sam up. He was relieved, soon they would leave again. He just hoped nobody had seen them entering his office.

A vial filled itself inside the machine till it pinged, then baldy injected it into Sam’s arm. She immediately woke up and sat straight on the stretcher. The bald man smiled.

‘Dan? You ok? What the fuck went wrong with my transfer?’

‘Relax. I’m good. Let me show you the video feed.’

He was watching her, sitting on the bench at the pier, the grey ocean in the background. Footsteps, then an impact and he fell to the ground. They fixated him. Then he saw her getting tased and falling from the bench. He heard how one of the guys holding him pulled out a gun. Their old friend whispered something into Sam’s ear, then injected a syringe into her port. Her connection dropped. Then a gunshot. They had shot Dan in the head. He was now in his new body but could still watch the video-feed of his old one. Their old friend started screaming. They were not supposed to shoot him. His goons had messed up and he was angry. He walked over to Dan’s body and injected the same syringe into his port.

“The tide is going to wash them out.”

The implant fried and his connection dropped.

‘I got in the new body, but yours was in a coma. I went to the pier. My implant was burned and my body cold. You were still in there somehow. I burned my body and took you here. It was the closest place with an analyzer.’

‘I’m connected to both bodies again. I can transfer now before this one falls apart.’

‘There was a virus in your blood that was trying to overwrite your implants. It must have worked on me, but your implants were fighting back. I took a sample and flushed the virus out of your body.’

‘What about the bounty?’

‘Everything worked. We got the money and it’s already untraceable. I already settled the debt payments. The government won’t bother us anymore.’

‘So, what next?’

They looked over to the old man. For Salim, only a second had passed since Sam had woken up.

“Hello, old friend. Haven’t seen you in a while.”

Salim gasped as he saw the young girl coming to him all those years ago. She had thought of him as a mentor, but he only used her for his gain. He built himself a proper office from her efforts. He did not even pay for the implants that broke on the jobs he sent her. He got reminded that it was one of the reasons his daughter had left him. Had he ever done anything for anyone else than himself? After everything Sam had done for him, he was not even willing to help her while she was dying.

“Don’t worry; we’ll be gone in a moment. We only need to use your oven.”

Oven? He had a body-sized incinerator hidden behind a cabinet in his office and made a small side income by burning bodies. He did not ask any questions as long as he was paid. Was this how it would end for him? Was she the angel that had been lingered over him all those years? His lung implant, the two strokes, and the stents all around his heart. He had survived all this, only to get confronted by the person he had used the most. She had brought him years of wealth and peace, but nothing comes without a price. He dropped on his knees and started to weep on the cold and dusty floor.

There was no argument, no reason for them to spare him. His vision got blurry, and emptiness filled his heart and mind. Sam looked at him without any emotions in her face.

“Who said we need it for you? You are not getting away that easily. You fucked up a lot in your life, but it’s not over yet. Dying would be the easiest way out.”

She jumped off the stretcher and squatted down to look him in the eyes.

“This is what is going to happen; you will receive a weekly paycheck. You will become legal, get yourself a medical implant, and treat people at the same rates you have been treating them before; way below legal. You will clean your lab and keep it that way. You will also have two VIPs who you will help with everything, at any time. They have full access to your stuff, and you won’t stand in their way. You will also forget that I was ever here. You will only remember this gentleman, but you will keep all the memories of the emotions you had today. He will make sure of that. If you don’t follow these instructions, the payments will stop, and you can continue to live your miserable life. It is your choice.”

While he had not fully felt it, something in him had changed. A small light had turned on in the darkness and kept growing. It was an opportunity many people in this world needed.

“Goodbye old friend. Goodbye, Salim.”

Dan pulled out his gun and shot Sam in the head. Blood sprayed on the walls and floor. Her eyes were still open, observing the shocked Salim cover himself in urine.

After her body was burned, Dan altered Salim’s memories. When the trauma was still fresh, it was easy to inject and change certain information that the mind would find more comfortable to process. Sam had never been here, and Salim had only talked to an angry bald guy the entire time. Now that Sam was dead, the man reminded him of all she had done for him, then gave him a choice and disappeared.

It would take many days, if not weeks, until Salim would fully accept the memory, but he would dream of it every night. One way or another, he would not turn into a loose end. After injecting the memory, Salim fell asleep in his lab.

‘Have you decided on a new name yet?’

‘Vaile.’

‘I’ll call you V then.’

‘What about you?’

‘Zed.’

‘Z it is then. Jesus, that feels weird.’

He was sitting in his quadcopter while watching the video feed. The copter was flying in from the ocean side, and through its glass, he could immerse himself in the city around him. From the outside, the glass appeared black, but inside it was fully transparent. The sky was grey, but the skyscrapers of the inner city were always glowing in a bright white-yellow-mint tone. They were entangled and had long structures and bridges connecting one another. It looked like a vast ring of interwoven threads, shielded off by a wall to the uncivilized and dirty part of the city, full of chaos and crime. Below it, almost forgotten and blurred out, the grey old city. From up here, the pier was barely visible, but he knew he was looking in the right direction.

He had deactivated the audio-feed when he noticed that this idiot was driving an absurdly loud motorcycle through the city, with several more following him. He was not going to hire this guy again and had already put him on the blacklist. As much as the two needed to disappear, he already missed their professionalism.

He was feeling strangely intimidated when he saw them not trying to flee or fight. They did not even bother to turn around. Did they play a bigger game he had no idea about? Then they shot Dan in the head. The fact that he would pay these goons 20 million made him visibly upset. He could have done a better job going there himself. At least the guy had scanned their implants and used the syringe as he was told to. Dan’s implant started to burn through his forehead. Sam was dead, but the implant had not fried. It looked like the virus had wiped it instead. Good enough. Usually, the virus would blow them up, but he expected them to have modified implants. The fact that it had still worked spoke for itself.

After he received the files, he sent out the bounty and closed the offer. He thought for a moment, then checked their profiles and logs. Their debt to the government had just been paid off. They must have had an emergency fund ready in case they would die. Even in death, they were protecting their client from the eyes of the government. True professionals.

The copter landed on the tiny roof near the top of the thin needle. The roof was filled with plants growing down the floors and covered the windows. It was windy and started to rain as he adjusted his black and grey striped suit and tie. His hair did not budge as he strode into the building. Checking out the manufacturing site was tiring him: the hour-long flight to the outskirts of the city and hours of walking through the absurdly large plant. At least everything had been moving along at the pace he needed it to. Everything was waiting for him to push the button.

The meeting he was about to have was just as important as the rest of the plan and needed to work flawlessly, but he had made sure of it. The rain started to hammer against the windows as he passed the empty conference rooms.