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Authors: Ioana Visan

Tags: #espionage, #science fiction, #genetic engineering, #cyberpunk, #heist, #world war, #circus, #genes, #prosthetics

Broken People (19 page)

BOOK: Broken People
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Four of the mechanical appendages moved,
slowly bringing the transporter forward into the empty space the
crowd left. The remaining four legs were in the air like frozen
arms, stiffly moving now and then without a given purpose. The
coordination could have been better and the movement smoother, but
this required practice, something he couldn’t easily do inside the
car. He turned in a full circle, then stopped, facing Armstrong. A
small smile twisted his lips, and his eyes twinkled.

Cielo couldn’t suppress an internal shudder.
They had done it. They had made him one with the machine, despite
Cole’s inability to use his arms and legs. Her smile was
bittersweet when he looked at her, encouraging but, at the same
time, sad because of what he had become.

“Don’t clap all at once, people,” Spinner
said.

A few choked laughs answered him.

“It looks great, doesn’t it?” Spinner’s
smile spread across his face.

People replied with nods, but also puzzled
looks. Cielo saw what the problem was. It lacked the color and
excitement a real circus act needed to be successful. This looked
like a bare act, and it wouldn’t match the rest of the show. There
was also a good chance it would frighten people. This wasn’t
supposed to be a horror show.

Rake slipped the remote in a pocket of his
jacket and stepped forward. “Any questions?” His eyes stopped on
Armstrong.

“Can it move faster than this?” Dale
asked.

“It has a speed limit of twenty-five
kilometers per hour,” Rake said. That was five times faster than a
typical person could walk. “We can increase it, but it isn’t
needed, and he needs better control first.”

Dale nodded. “Autonomy?”

“Twenty-four hours anywhere within the city
limits. An extra battery can be added, but the goal was to keep it
light.”

“Can it dance?” Jacko yelled.

The body of the machine swayed on its
slender legs. The front pair of appendages that didn’t reach the
ground rose and imitated a snake. The finger-like appendices at the
end opened and closed. The clapping failed as the mechanical hands
missed each other by a few centimeters. Cole frowned and tried
again.

People winced as the sharp noise of metal
scraping against metal pierced their ears.

“No, don’t do that.” Spinner shook his
head.

“What else can he do?” someone yelled from
the crowd.

Cielo blinked, concerned.

“Well, we’ll add some music, lights, a bit
of color so it stops looking so freakishly white and surgical,”
Spinner said, rolling his eyes.

Without looking back, Cole raised one
metallic arm with only one finger extended. It was the wrong one,
but the message got through just fine. He moved again, a little
more confident, and circled the simulacra of the arena bordered by
the train.

One of the dancers, whose dress appeared to
be covered in icicles, took his metallic hand and twirled under it
as he passed by. The clowns whistled. The girl smiled at Cole, did
a little curtsy, and returned to her colleagues.

Nicholas nodded as if designing performances
in his head already. Cole needed an act of his own, one that would
explain his presence there. “How much can he carry?”

“Two tons,” Rake said.

The stilt man on the left extended his legs
and took a giant leap over Cole and his machine, landing
effortlessly on the other side.

“Do we know how tall the ceilings are?”
Jacko asked. “We could totally do that!”

“They’re tall enough,” Nicholas said
pensively.

Riella stepped forward and reached for an
arm with both hands. The arm became rigid when she hung on it, and
she pulled herself up, using it as a trapeze. She spread her legs
wide, lifted them over her head, and landed backward with a flip,
her red hair flying like a bonfire around her.

“If you break it, you’ll pay for it,”
Nicholas said.

Riella, of course, paid him no mind but
glared when Cole stepped to the side and offered his mechanical
hand to Anya.

The ballerina took it and climbed on the
machine, where she walked from one end to the other without fear of
losing her balance. Her poses and pliés were perfect, as if she
were on the stage and not on a moving, uneven platform. She slid
off along one of the smooth, arched legs, a smug grin on her face
when Nicholas caught her.

“I can work with that,” she said when he
released her.

But Cole hadn’t finished his demonstration.
He didn’t stop when he came face-to-face with Cielo. He simply
pointed at the empty seat behind him and turned so she could get
on.

Cielo hesitated. The crab-like machine
didn’t look safe, and she didn’t want to break her other leg, too.
But Cole’s set of back arms stretched behind him, turning into
safety rails. Laughing, Cielo held onto them and climbed on. The
machine moved faster and faster, taking her away from the circus
and across the field.

“Hey, come back here!” Spinner yelled after
them.

When Cole refused to listen, Rake waved at
Fei Lin, and she took giant leaps to catch up with the runaways.
She did, but she didn’t try to stop them. She accompanied them.

 

37

Still flushed from the ride, Cielo left Cole
in Rake’s and Spinner’s trustful hands, and walked away before they
could start their scolding. Not that they didn’t have a good reason
to be upset. Taking off like that had been an irresponsible thing
to do with the machine still in the prototype stage, but it was so
much fun.

She bumped into Dale, and his hands shot out
to prevent her from falling. Under his piercing gaze, Cielo’s smile
vanished. Annoyance washed over her because she had done nothing
wrong. She lifted her chin up.

“You’re asking too much of him.” The words
came out before she could actually think them.

“And you’re forgetting he works for me,”
Dale said. He took his time before stepping back. His tone was
reserved and not aggressive, but the warning was there.

“He’s useless to you if he
can’t
work.”

“He’s useless
period
if he can’t
work.”

The staring contest lasted for several
seconds before Dale said, “But your people are supposed to take
care of that.”

“You’re rushing it—”

“There’s no time.”

“And if he fails? Will you say it was worth
the risk?”

“It’s only worth it if we succeed,” Dale
said.

That was cold. So cold. For the first time,
Cielo wondered what he wanted so badly from inside the Hrad. She’d
never cared before. The circus policy was to fix them and then
forget about them. But while the patient was at the circus, he was
still under their care. “I won’t let you—”

An arm slid around her tense shoulders,
pulling her back. “Don’t threaten my crew, Mr. Armstrong,” Nicholas
said.

Cielo hadn’t heard him approach.

“I was only stating a fact.” Dale’s eyes
traveled from Cielo to Nicholas and then back to her. “I’ll come
back tomorrow,” he said and left the car.

“I could have handled him.” Cielo glared at
Nicholas as she stepped away from him.

“I know,” he answered with an easy smile.
“But
he
doesn’t have to know that.”

“He’s killing him. He wants too much, too
fast.”

“Cielo, we don’t kill people.” Nicholas’s
fingers brushed against her cheek. “We’ll be there every step of
the way. We’ll make sure he’s all right in the end.”

“It’s not good enough.” Cielo shook her
head. “We should call off the deal.”

Nicholas gave her an odd look, and the
corners of his mouth tightened. “Armstrong can expose us all. I’m
sorry, but the deal stays on.”

“Well, you’re not the boss here.” Cielo
frowned at him, hands on her hips. She’d go and wake up Big Dino if
she had to, but this madness needed to end.

“Perhaps not,” Nicholas said quietly. “But I
do know my contract. Do you know what the first clause is?
Protect the Nightingale at all costs.
That is what I’m
doing. ” He turned and started for the exit, leaving a frustrated
Cielo behind.

 

38

“How did it go?” Aurore looked up from the
jewelry box she was inspecting when Dale entered her office and
plopped himself down on the sofa. The security guards had orders to
let him pass, but they missed announcing his arrival. They were
obviously slacking.

“It worked.” Dale ran a hand over his face.
He needed a shave.

“But…?”

He stared at the floor for a second,
seemingly putting his thoughts in order. “It’s too big, too loud …
It draws too much attention. I don’t know what act they can use to
distract the audience long enough to make him disappear. I don’t
know if they can.” He paused. “I don’t like the odds.”

Aurore’s bare fingers twitched on the table.
Was he serious? Had he really come to complain? “Luckily for me, my
whole purpose in life is not to make
you
happy.”

“No, of course not.” He leaned forward, his
elbows propped on his knees, and tilted his head as he looked at
her.

She blinked. “Then why are you here?”

“I was just getting to it. It’s time for you
to tell me what you want from the vault.”

Ah, that
. It was a reasonable
request. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll be there to take the items
myself.”

“That’s out of the question. What was
supposed to be a two-man job has turned into a circus parade
already. There’s no room for you there. Let the professionals do
it.”

Aurore arched an eyebrow. “The circus crew
are professionals when it comes to burglary now?”

“No, but I’m stuck with them because of
you.” Dale pointed at her. “I don’t need any more amateurs
involved. I’ll get your items, but in order to take them out of the
Hrad, I need more info about them … or are they small enough to
carry them without being noticed?”

“Well, no…”

“Okay, tell me the metrics then.”

Aurore hesitated. She didn’t want to tell
him all of the details in advance. He’d think she was insane. But
he had a point. Getting them out could be tricky. “There are four
items, two of a kind, so there could be either two or four boxes. I
don’t know how they’re packed.”

“Size?”

“About one meter long, forty centimeters
wide.”

“Weight?”

“Including the storage equipment, under
fifty kilos total.”

“Are they fragile?”

“Yes, but the cases should provide
protection against impact.”

“Is there anything inside that might trigger
an alarm?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Dale nodded, his face void of expression. It
was impossible to guess what he thought. “And, lastly, who will be
coming after me if I steal them?”

“That’s the best part. No one.” Aurore
smiled. “Those items belong to me.”

“Then why are they in the vault, and why are
you stealing them?”

“Someone put them in there for me a long
time ago.”

“Your uncle could get them for you,” Dale
said. “He pretty much runs the whole town.”

“He
could
… if he wanted to.” Aurore
paused.

“Ah. But why wouldn’t he—” Dale raised both
hands. “I know. Not my business.”

“Right.” Aurore nodded, pleased he
understood. “Anything else?”

“Are you sure they’re in there?”

“Yes. It’s been confirmed from two reliable
sources who have no interest in lying to me.”

“Okay. How will I recognize the boxes? I
assume there are quite a few things stored in there, and I don’t
suppose they have your name written on them.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they did
actually.” Aurore gave him an amused smile. “But I’ll spare you the
trouble of searching for them and tell you exactly what to look for
when we get there.”

“Am I supposed to be your escort again?”
Dale made no effort to suppress a sigh.

“Do you have a better explanation for your
presence at the Hrad?”

“I thought the museum would be open for
everyone that night.”

“Oh yes, and you’ve been such a tourist
since coming into town.”

“Maybe I like the circus. I’ve been seen
roaming around the premises lately.”

“Maybe you have a crush on one of the
girls.” Aurore pursed her lips in a teasing smirk.

“Maybe I do.” A faint grin relaxed Dale’s
features. “Speaking of girls, do you know where I can find Rosie?
She hasn’t stopped by the loft today, and she’s not in the
square.”

“Rosie? Why?” She narrowed her eyes at him,
reluctant to get the little girl involved in whatever he was
planning.

“I have a job for her. There’s a little guy
who’d enjoy some playtime with her, and they’d make a great
distraction at the Hrad.”

“More than the circus acts?”


After
the show.”

“Hmm. Is it safe? I don’t want to put her in
danger.”

“Rake and Spinner claimed so. Of course, it
will only work if you can get her cleaned up and convince her not
to bite people for one evening.”

“Rosie doesn’t bite people!”

Dale’s fleeting smile returned. “Right. But
she needs to pretend to have better social skills at least. We
won’t get anywhere if people are afraid to approach her.”

“That can be arranged,” Aurore said. “She
can be very versatile when she wants to be. It depends on what you
offer her in return.”

“A night full of bliss and laughter.” Dale
got up.

Full of suspicion, Aurore watched him, not
sure how he was going to achieve that. “I’ll talk to her.”

“Tell her it involves the menzataxor.”

“What’s that?”

“She’ll know.” He started for the door.

Aurore frowned at his back. The situation
was getting out of hand, and she hated that.

 

39

The cannon sent Fei Lin soaring towards the
sky and, for 4.6 seconds, she saw only the bright face of the moon.
The wingless flight reminded her of the time when her robo-suit
could actually fly, but her anti-gravitational field wasn’t
working, and Rake and Spinner hadn’t been able to fix it yet. So,
for now, she was confined to the ground, walking among regular
people and flying only when they put her in that cannon and turned
her into Rocket Girl. She despised that name, along with all of
these cheap, western thrills.

BOOK: Broken People
3.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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